Beau September 9th, 2010
Beautiful mornings with cooler temperatures. The days are becoming noticeably shorter, and the light just changes somehow. I love how the sun is lower in the sky, especially in the afternoons. Light filters through the trees and reflects off the pond in different ways, shimmering as the wind drifts across the water…
The nights over the past week have been interesting too. I’ve seen glow worms in the grass… I know, most people say, “Glow worms? There’s no such thing!” Ah but there is. Really they are just firefly larvae, but most people have never seen them.
When you walk along at night, with dew on the grass at this time of year, you think you may be seeing things. As you walk along you begin to notice little sparkles of light, almost like the stars above, yet twinkling all around you. It’s natural magic I tell you…
As I write early this morning, Captain Jack is outside crowing like a banshee. Or, um, a rooster I suppose. Good thing we live a few hundred yards from our neighbors! If I listen carefully, there’s another rooster crowing a good distance to the south, so maybe he’s just keeping up appearances :)
I have to say the eggs these little birds give us each day are really wonderful. I’m officially spoiled now with having fresh eggs and store bought cartons will never seem the same. So in the name of enjoying such bounty, I’ve decided to encourage the girls to continue laying this winter by adding a little artificial light.
There’s a host of passions on the issue, but honestly the chickens I have are bred to be decent winter layers anyway. But I realized an extension cord into the nearby shed would be too simple, and perhaps it will give the girls a little extra heat in the winter. I’ll keep the light going for a few extra hours each evening, and that should be just enough to keep their egg production going well. I have to admit I also like the idea of the chickens earning their keep!
So the cool thing about how the coop fits together with the shed is that the window in the shed serves as both the “feeder door” and as a window for the light to shine through. I put the food into a 30 gallon galvanized can to minimize the mice or other critters getting to it. When it’s time to feed (which seems to be all too frequently lately!), we just scoop it up and reach through the window to their feeder.
Makes it so much simpler, and I’m soooo glad I built it there. Between the shed and the nest box door outside the coop, we don’t have to go inside the run and coop itself very often. Of course if all the hens laid their eggs in the nest boxes, we’d only have to go in the coop every few days to change water. There’s a couple of hold outs… those hens seem to lay their eggs wherever the mood strikes them!
The light works well enough, although I may run it into the coop this winter to provide a little extra heat. Or maybe the inherent heat within the shed will help keep the coop warm. Either way most of the walls are insulated, and when I figure out what to put over the screen windows the chickens should be fine.
Otherwise it’s time to clean up around here. I’ve been battling weeds and grass, and thinking of preparing for winter. Summer’s done gone… The cycle begins again it seems. I did come across an interesting plant, way up high in a dead tree. This snag has been around for a long time, and this year a Pokeweed plant (Phytolacca americana) decided to grow about halfway up on the right side…
Have you ever had poke salat ? Lots of folks in the south have made it a staple, at least in the older days. I tried it last year, not bad… if you like cooked greens. When the little head and shoots are coming up around 6 inches in the spring, you just cut them off at ground level.
Then you boil the heck of them (two or three times is a good idea) and maybe saute them like spinach with butter or garlic and olive oil. Pretty tasty, although I was a little hesitant because just about the entire plant is poisonous! You can’t eat the plant or the berries in their mature form at all.
But if you never ate it before… then maybe you’ve heard the song. Remember Tony Joe White’s Poke Salad Annie? Here’s a grand ‘ole duet with Tony on the Johnny Cash Show from April, 1970… think I was in third or fourth grade, somewhere between California and New Jersey…
That’s just plain good stuff…
Beau September 6th, 2010
It was time for one of the roosters to go. With eight hens and two roosters, our hens were a little tired of being chased around the yard. The roosters got along just fine, but that was because Red took the #2 spot, playing second fiddle to Captain Jack. The Captain let everyone know that he was in charge around here. In fact, little Red didn’t even crow much, while Jack loves to let the world know how he sounds, from early morning to the afternoon. Especially when he sees you…
I was fortunate last week to meet someone looking for a rooster however. A woman with six children (all girls!) and a bunch of hens running around the yard. The best part for Red? He went from being the #2 rooster among 8 hens, and joined a new flock of 16 hens, all to himself!
It was funny… within 30 seconds of letting him go among the new “girls” he was strutting his stuff and making low chortling sounds to get their attention. Sheesh!
But a few of the more dominant hens ran right up to him as if to say, “Who the heck do you think you are Buster?!”
Red didn’t care… he just looked ’em hard in the eye for a minute and strutted off as if to say “There’s a new kid in town Ladies, and I’m going to go meet the other hens!”
Beau September 1st, 2010
Rain! A nice day or two drizzle to give us some much needed moisture. Hopefully it won’t really storm… and I hope too that all you folks on the Eastern seaboard are well prepared before Earl makes an appearance. That’s going to be a lot of rain… I can’t remember the last time a hurricane came up the east coast? Hopefully it stays far enough offshore to lessen the winds.
Hard to believe it’s already September, but I’ve been watering the garden to keep everything from totally wilting… it’s a pretty sad affair. This was about a week ago, and it just became drier.
Today’s rain should help a little, but the weeds have taken over and there’s very little growing at this point. What should I be planting now? Peas? Beans? I may skip the fall season for planting and go right into spring planning :)
What I do know is that bell peppers grow really well in big containers! And quite a few other plants I’m sure. This is a grouping of three pepper plants I picked up for .99 cents each back in late June.
They have grown so well and given back about a dozen green peppers with more coming! It doesn’t get any easier- and the peppers in the garden didn’t do nearly as well. Containers do so much better, but I really love the garden rows. Maybe I should make some really long “row containers” with landscape block or something?
Last week we ran down the road a good bit for some trout fishing. Just a nice cool morning and a good mess of pan-sized rainbow trout. This one is actually a pound and a half! Fun times and so delicious…
We also have critter news! Meet the new addition… a Calico mouser that looks like she stuck her nose in a coal bin. Isn’t she a cutie?
She’s 7 weeks old with a great disposition. Let’s hope it stays that way… and she becomes an expert rodent hunter. With the chickens around this year I suspect we’ll have a few more mice. Watch out little rodents, this kitty will grow up quickly.
And the other big news… the chickens gave us 8 eggs today! One from each of the 8 hens which is very cool. Usually it has been around 4-5 a day but now they’re all laying. Now just when I’m getting excited they’ll probably slow down as fall continues. I don’t think I’ll keep lights on in the coop for winter however, so we’ll just see how the chickens do on their own.
Otherwise you can really see the fall season approaching. The barn swallows have disappeared I think… perhaps starting their migration south. I did see a larger flock of nighthawks meandering around the sky and they will continue heading south. The cicadas are growing quieter, and the fall flowers are in bloom. I’m glad the rain will promote a little more flowering for the bees as well. Have a good day!
Beau August 27th, 2010
Where has the time gone this week!? Between back to school and priorities at home, I have not written a single word… I think it’s time to start a few of those “wordless” photograph days :)
It has been a beautiful, dry week with cooler temperatures. To provide a little emphasis to his “back to school” week, the boy was stung by a wasp last Monday. Yeeouch! It was a doozy… and after a couple of days of itchy red swelling, his foot is nearly back to normal but very bruised and purple-red looking. Wasp stings can be very unpleasant, moreso than a bee sting. When I am stung it’s usually just a little red and itchy and some swelling for a day or so.
But wasp stings last longer and seem to bruise more. I’m trying never to take the bees for granted either… I found myself running out in a t-shirt and shorts “just to check” on the hives a time or two this year. Big mistake… although I was never stung severely, the bees let me know that a good veil, protective suit and a smoker can really help keep things under control. Sometimes however, the bees go crazy for no apparent reason… I’m glad Warren is okay, and hopefully I will never have that experience!
Speaking of going crazy, I let the chickens have the run of the garden this afternoon and they were simply nuts! They ran everywhere chomping veggies and weeds, chasing bugs and diggling little holes to wiggle into and squirm all around. I never knew chickens liked to lay on their backs! This one was too funny… a red hybrid upside down next to a Barred Rock.
After a while she leaped up like she had forgotten herself and shook all her feathers. We can’t complain about their oddities… they’re laying about 6 eggs per day now, either in or near the nest boxes.
Of course the boy had to go around petting and picking them up. He managed to pick up none other than Captain Jack all dressed in black. Jack is five months old now. Funny, the kiddo has that pirate wink thing going on because of the sunlight.
The good ‘ole Captain runs the show around here… even the New Hampshire Red rooster takes second fiddle to the Captain. I’ll have to get a good picture of him, but when he puffs out all his feathers he puts on quite a sight! He’s got quite the crowing call as well. He put up with the boy’s attentions and I fed him a little scratch while he held him. Jack ate the scratch grudgingly, pecking my hand with a little extra fervor.
Saw this critter cruising along the shoreline of the pond the other day. I’ve only seen the non-poisonous variety of snakes around here, but it’s enough to give you pause if you were thinking about swimming!
I also took a day this week to drive down to Arkansas and attend a memorial for the father of a family friend. His son is a good friend of my brother who is serving in Afghanistan right now, and the gentleman was a navy veteran. So it was a privilege to put on the uniform and attend, and especially to meet his family and friends. They hail from south of a small town, back in the rugged Ozark mountains.
It was a beautiful afternoon. There was a small military contingent presenting a flag, and a bugle player. Driving home late that night promoted much reflection, and as events of that nature tend to do, put many things in perspective. This good man’s sons and grandsons helped to bury his remains, completing a circle that we often don’t consider until later in our own lives.
I’ll write a bit more later… summer is quickly winding down and the garden is a mess. I should think about planting some peas or something, but my jar of garden motivation seems to be missing right now :) I hope you have a great weekend.