Sunday, September 12, 2010

One Sunday in September...

Today was a misty, cool, Sunday. I love days like this; they remind me of Ireland, but the day wasn't so moist that I couldn't get outside and enjoy it. Rather than write a bunch, here are some photos taken from my stroll around our property today.

I planted sunflowers at the edge of our property where they'd get plenty of sun. Despite the drought this year, they're doing pretty good.

Squeak follows me everywhere. Here, he's near the hedgerow at the edge of our property near where I've planted the sunflowers. He's a most excellent "helper".

My garden was somewhat pathetic this year due to the fact that I had a bunch of young chickens running wild most of the summer. They devoured everything. Here is a young kale volunteer that I managed to cover with a sheer curtain; these kale volunteers have come up 2 years in a row!

Ah, this is suppose to be a "Peter Pepper", which is suppose to look strikingly like its namesake. I got the seeds from a Seed Saver's Exchange member, but obviously it crossed with something's nice and hot though.

Mail call! Our mailbox....send me a letter! Inside the blue newspaper box lurks an old bird's nest...

My red raspberries appear to be about to produce a bumper crop of autumn raspberries.

Future red raspberry

Checking for eggs, I lifted the nesting box lid and found FIVE hens occupying the 3 boxes.

I cleaned out the chicken coop yesterday and now have a full /overflowing compost bin in the garden...Golden Sexlink looks on in the background.

A "Beautyberry" bush, (Callicarpa Dichotoma) is growing up between cracks in our patio (!!!) I need to transplant it somewhere, or start more from seed. I love the purple berries that it produces.

Callicarpa Dichotoma aka "Beautyberry Bush"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chickens Update


So here it is September already. Summer has come and gone for the most part; where did it go?! I've kept busy all summer, though apparently not quite busy enough when I stand back and see all that I did not get accomplished (that I'd hope I would) this summer.

I will give a quick update on the 15 chicks that hatched this spring (rather than blather on and on about what I didn't get done this summer!). And I promise, I WILL write about other things in this blog besides chickens....I don't want to have to re-name it "Chickens In The Mist."

Of the 15 eggs that hatched this spring (3 different batches), 10 were cockerels and only 5 were little pullets. What are the odds?! The roosters were all gorgeous and varying combinations of Welsummer/Ameraucana/Golden Sexlink/Speckled Sussex crosses. I wanted to keep them all of course, but I've already got 2 Ameraucana roosters and with 12 roosters crowing all day long, it was getting to be a little much. So, I advertised on Freecycle requesting that they go to "pet only" homes; I couldn't bear the thought of these sweet little boys ending up in a freezer or stew pot somewhere. I ended up parting with 9 of the roosters. I kept "Squeak", a handsome Welsummer/Ameraucana cross.

Squeak is the stunning result of a Welsummer/Ameraucana crossing

Squeak was so-named because he was the second to hatch in the first batch, the first being named "Pip"....Pipsqueak. Get it?! Anyway, Squeak is colored just like a Welsummer, has a Welsummer comb, but has these big, fat Ameraucana cheeks. What a stunning combination of characteristics!

Who's yer daddy?! Ameraucana cheeks, but everything else screams Welsummer!

Currently Squeak is the sweetest rooster to grace the earth. He follows me around like a lost puppy, making constant chittering noises. He sounds like a senile old man muttering to himself. And it's just non-stop. I will be devastated if he turns mean like Ding Dong, but I know that's a possibility.

Of the 5 pullets hatched this spring, 2
("Biddy Boop" and ""Zoe") look like full-blooded Welsummers. Three ("Meep", "Guinevere" and "Smidgen the Pigeon") look like full-blooded Ameraucanas. I will know for sure when they begin to lay eggs; egg color will be the deciding factor. I'm really, really hoping for some Welsummer/Ameraucana crosses, as their eggs should be a wonderful dark olive color.

Guinevere appears to be a full-blooded Ameraucana

Meep, another pullet that appears to be all-Ameraucana. That's Domino in the background. He's a Speckled Sussex/Ameraucana cross.

So, with the 6 new additions to my little flock, I've now got a grand total of 33 chickens; 30 hens and 3 roosters. I've got all the new hens (pullets) integrated in with the rest of the girls. Squeak and the lame Venus still have free range of the yard. I worry that if I put Venus in with the rest of the flock that they'll pick on her. And Squeak, well, the other 2 roosters are very, very jealous. Someday soon though, I'd love to get all the chickens under one roof. Life would be so much easier.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Life is Full of Surprises

Biggest Speckled Sussex egg ever....NOT!

I've mentioned before how large my Speckled Sussex hens are compared to the other girls, and how very small their eggs are compared to those of the smaller hens. You'd fully expect such a, uh, large girl to lay a fairly large egg. But NO! The SS girls lay the smallest eggs in my flock. They, however, make the most racket, and sing the loudest egg song of all the hens. Silly girls.

Today as I was collecting eggs, I came across the most ginormous egg ever. OK. Not really. It's the smallest egg I've ever seen, other than from a wren or something. And it's a Speckled Sussex egg, no less. I can just imagine the egg song this girl must have warbled upon laying such a giant! It came complete with a butt feather. How adorable!

The colossal Speckled Sussex egg...

I haven't had the heart to crack it open yet, but I imagine there's no yolk inside...and if there were, would this thing even hatch?! Oh, how tiny would that poor little chick be!

Sesame Street game..."which egg doesn't belong?"

Speckled Sussex egg and quarter

Normal "large" Golden Sexlink egg, and the gargantuan Speckled Sussex egg.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oh Wild Grapes, How Do You Tease Me? Let Me Count The Ways....

Leaves of a domestic grape vine, either a Concord or Niagara

What I thought were infant clusters of wild grapes growing over my Secret Garden by the woods

Number one: you tease me by having a poisonous look-alike. I was so excited a couple weeks ago when I discovered that the "wild grape" vine growing up and over my Secret Garden was absolutely covered with teeny, tiny, wild grapes in hundreds upon hundreds of clusters. Then, I compared the fruit clusters with my Concord grape vine clusters, and the Concords are miles ahead of the "wild grape". And those leaves....the leaves of the "wild grape" look a bit different than "domestic" grape leaves. But hey, these are wild grapes, after all, they're entitled to look a bit different. Then I remembered reading about a fruit that mimics wild grapes and is poisonous. After a quick Internet search, I re-discovered that Common Moonseed (Menispermum canadense) looks a bit like grapes. Upon comparing their leaves to my "wild grapes", I found that, sadly, I have the poisonous Moonseed plant growing over my Secret Garden. I was soooo looking forward to plucking clusters of wild grapes from overhead, and making some wild Concord wine.

Canopy over my shaded Secret Garden is draped with Common Moonseed

Another view of the Secret Garden's canopy with Common Moonseed climbing a drooping wild cherry branch

#2....You're elusive. I know we've got loads of wild grapes growing in our woods, so perhaps I can muster the energy and time and forage for them when they're ripe. We can smell that sweet, grape aroma when we walk in the woods, or down the road by our house on crisp autumn days. And I see the clusters, waaaaaawy up high in the treetops. How on earth am I suppose to get those?!

Perhaps it's a good thing I've got a small vineyard planted, though it's still young and not productive. At least I'll have a source of grapes that I can actually reach and not just a bunch (pun intended) of teasers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On This Day in May...

Late May is a beautiful time. Well, the entire month of May is beautiful, really. Here are a few things blooming at Cairnwood Cottage on this fine day in May:

Lady Robin Azalea

Marigolds (from the nursery)

This is suppose to be a Paul's Himalayan Musk climbing rose, but I'm not so sure...I didn't think it would be this pink, and it doesn't have the extreme fragrance I was expecting. And it's not climbing too vigorously. It's pretty, none-the-less.

Another view of the alleged Paul's Himalayan Musk as it climbs up the dog yard fence.

And for the first time since I planted it several years ago, my Polish Spirit clematis has climbed into the sour cherry tree and is BLOOMING!

Impatiens, after being watered, in a flower bed under a tree in our front yard.

Don Juan rose is putting on a good show in front of the Rambling Rector rambling rose which climbs up the side of the house.

Don Juan and Rambling Rector roses growing at the entrance to our patio (as seen from the driveway)

I got a start of this iris from someone at a Master Gardener conference...not exactly sure what it's called, but I think it's some type of Siberian iris (?)

Daydream shrub rose

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Creativity. It's a Good Thing.

I'll be the first to admit that I have a problem throwing away perfectly good things. I'm always looking for ways to recycle things; sometimes I'm successful, other times not.

Several weeks ago I bought some replacement Niagara grapes from Lowes since the ones I tried to over-winter in pots didn't make it. At any rate, two grape vines came bound together in a nifty little "gunny sack". What a cute sack! How could I throw something like that away, yet what would I do with it?!

Lightbulb moment! I'll turn it into a planter! I simply lined the interior of the burlap sack with a plastic bag, poked a hole in the bottom and filled it with potting soil, then planted a nifty little viola in it.

Little burlap sack lined with a plastic bag, waiting to be filled with potting soil and viola.

The happy little finished product!

So, what does one do with an empty Baltimore oriole nest that has fallen from the tree? Same thing!

Empty Baltimore Oriole nest

Baltimore Oriole nest turned into a planter

Thursday, May 20, 2010

And They Grow....

They're a mere 4 days old, growing feathers and exploring this big, big world.

Isn't this THE cutest, fatest, fluffiest face you've ever seen? Chick from a Speckled Sussex egg...I'm guessing the daddy is an Ameraucana, judging from the chubby cheeks.

They're four days old and already they're starting to feather out. It simply amazes me how fast a chick can grow. What amazes me even more is the fact that a fully developed chick can crack out of an egg in a mere 21 days. Now that's fast. And miraculous!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Yet More Babies!

New peeps! Speckled Sussex, Ameraucana, and Welsummer (L-R) with proud mama, Chicken Lickin' looking on.

Sunday, May 16 saw the arrival of three more peeps here at Cairnwood Cottage. Chicken Lickin', a Welsummer hen, had been sitting on a clutch of 7 eggs. And for the precise reason that you shouldn't count your chicks before they're hatched, only three hatched. Well, four hatched, but unfortunately the fourth one disappeared somehow....I found a pipped shell about 10 feet from the nest, but no chick in sight. Since the nesting box is inside our closed garage, I'm guessing perhaps a snake made off with the unfortunate peep. I've since snake-proofed the nesting box by closing it off with screen at night while the babes sleep.

The three eggs that Chicken Lickin' hatched were a Welsummer egg, an Ameraucana egg, and a Speckled Sussex egg, the daddy being either an Americauna or the late Welsummer, Ding Dong. I'm anxious to see how these guys will look when they mature. For right now though, I'm just enjoying their cuteness way more than a person should!

First meal. (L-R) Welsummer, Ameraucana, and Speckled Sussex

Chicken Lickin' gives detailed instructions to the peeps for their first drink...

And down the hatch!

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Safe Weed Killer?

Yes. I have a terrible problem with poison ivy here, and really hate the idea of using a toxic weed killer. After a bit of searching, I found a recipe that sounded safe, and amazingly, it actually works! I didn't really think to write about it here until I read my niece's blog where she wrote about using a similar homemade concoction to kill weeds successfully. My recipe is nearly identical to hers, but mine includes the addition of liquid dish soap (hopefully an environmentally safe soap!) which acts as a "sticker".

With poison ivy, you need to spray it while it's still young, otherwise it doesn't work well at all. Some weeds it works great on, others it takes several applications. Don't spray this stuff on plants if there is rain in the forecast as that will just wash it off and you'll have to re-apply.

Here is a before and after photo of a particularly nasty weed that I have to deal with in my garden, and for the life of me I can't remember what it's called just now. I'll look it up tomorrow (hopefully), and make a note of what it is. It smells like mums, so it's not ALL bad, but it spreads like wildfire and is a bear to get rid of.

Moments after homemade weed killer was sprayed on the weeds--they're already starting to droop!

The first photo was taken just a few minutes after I sprayed my homemade weed killer on it. The second photo was taken a couple hours later. Amazing how fast it works! I don't think this actually kills the plant right off the bat, but several sprayings will be in order to eradicate it.

Several hours after weed killer was sprayed. Gotcha!

Here's the recipe:

1 gallon vinegar
1 cup salt
8 drops detergent

mix together and shake until salt dissolves, pour into a sprayer and go to town killing weeds!

This is great to use on our brick patio where little weeds grow up between the bricks. And I can feel good about using something that isn't harming life or the environment.

Friday, May 14, 2010

One Fine Day in May

The sky threatened rain most of the day and thunder could be heard rumbling in the distance, but we didn't get rain until early evening, and then it was nothing to write home about.
The mercury rose to 80 degrees F, and it was humid and buggy the entire time I was working in the garden. Not my favorite conditions for working outside at all.

I got a fair bit accomplished, but not nearly what I had hoped (of course!) I planted some cabbage, kale and spinach in my straw bale garden. I'm curious to see how this gardening technique works; more on that in another entry.

Noticed a juvenile toad sitting on a stone in one of the flower beds as I walked past. He didn't move from that spot for several hours. He's obviously not concerned that he's got spirea flower petals on his back. The stone is probably nice and cool on his tiny belly in the shaded garden on this hot, humid day. And why is it, that toads are seemingly always referred to as males when people talk about them?

Young toad enjoying the shade in one of my flower beds

I then managed to transplant a variety of herbs in my sewer pipe tile herb planter. I'm hoping the chickens that manage to escape the chicken run leave this alone

Herbs growing in tile flower bed border

Chiquita, an Ameraucana hen, helping me with garden chores

Speaking of renegade chickens, here's one that somehow manages to escape in spite of the fact that she's got her wings clipped. Chiquita is "helping" me, as you can see.

English Lavender

I'm trying to be good and get things transplanted as soon as I buy them. I love lavender but never seem to have much luck growing it. So, here's to trying yet again. Once I got the lavender planted, I rustled up the various empty pots and containers to add to the pile of said items beside our garage. Why is it that, in spite of the fact that I'm not scared of snakes and in fact I like snakes, that they still make me jump a mile when I see one when I'm not expecting to? This little garter snake nearly made me jump out of my skin when I went to put the pots on the pile.

Garter snake

Venus, my crippled Welsummer hen, has gone broody. I've got two other Welsummer hens that are broody and I'm trying to break their broodiness; egg production is dropping with all these broody girls! I need no fewer than nine dozen organic eggs a week for my faithful egg customers. A fourth Welsummer is due to hatch out a clutch of eggs in two days. She's down to six eggs in her clutch
; there were seven there just a couple days ago. I'm hoping she's not going to cause me grief like Speck did when her eggs were due to hatch. Anyway, I've decided to let Venus hatch out some eggs...she needs a job. I don't let her in with the rest of the chickens because I'm afraid the roosters will hurt her already hurt back/leg. She seems to get along fine with the hens, but the roosters think she's hot (with a name like Venus, well....) and can't seem to leave her alone the few times she's managed to sneak into the pen.

The five eggs Venus is mothering

Venus has been sitting on these eggs for about four days. I've got them marked lightly with pencil lines so I can tell which eggs are to hatch, and which eggs Chiquita and Maggon lay in there....yes, Chiquita and Maggon know all about this "secret nest" and have been laying eggs in this nest for months. They crowd in there in spite of Venus's protests and scolding, lay an egg (pale blue and green), and leave. It would be disastrous if I couldn't determine which eggs were fresh and which eggs are growing. Venus is such a sweet chicken...I think she'll be an excellent mother. Right now though, she's pretty fierce if you stick you hand in the nest. It's amazing what a few hormones can do to a girl!

Maggon (in rear) crowding a broody Venus

You would look crabby too, if you'd been sitting on a clutch of eggs in one spot for 19 (so far) days