Sunday, December 18, 2011

Yay Maude! First Egg Friday

17 December... Friday afternoon, Maude laid her first egg! Have to say she is a bit of a drama queen. Yesterday, while warming up to the idea of egg number two, she claimed the entire coop. Poor Lucy came flying out at one point, with Maude hot on her tail, pecking and shouting. Hmm...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wind, then cold. Maude turns henish?!

**Dec 6. Last Tuesday night - worst winds in 12 years. Chickens spent the night in the bathtub (going back to their roots).
**Dec 12. Last night temps 30degrees below seasonal normal. It was 7 degrees when we got up. Spent most of the morning stuffing straw into the walls of the roost box & tacking it in place with cardboard. (Girls were baffled... suddenly a lot less room in there! :) ) Put plastic up on the last open panel of the coop proper. G went out shopping for an extra brooder bulb, and a second heat lamp. She ended up running all over the north valley. The clerk at Dan's Boots and Saddles said, "There was a run on those this past weekend. You're late!" :) They had a box ready for next year over at Miller's Feed. While there, G got sucked in by the bag of freeze-dried meal worms. Chicken Cheetos! They were a huge hit.

Oh, straw in the old feedbags like pill0ws up on top of the roost box. And towels like a tapestry to cover their front "window." I wish we had a thermometer out there to keep tabs on the temp, but the wireless remote one was interfering with the baby monitor so we brought it in. Brrrrr. Poor chickadees!

**Dec 11. Gloria turned around abruptly & Maude did 'the crouch!' Oh my, our little tomboy is growing up! (Usually means they start laying w/i the week.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dot & Gloria -- Master Composters!

In a ceremony Sunday afternoon (Nov 6th), 20 people received their master composter name plates and certificates. Yay! We can now officially 'talk shit!' :) It was great to hear the details of the projects some of the other interns have been working on. [Add details] Walking in Circles horse ranch has a huge manure pile/problem several people have been trying to address (hooking them up with a group of worm composters, distributing manure to gardeners). Omar got a grant from Intel to create a small-scale muncipal composting system behind the parks and rec office in Corrales. And someone else is trying to get some neighborhood composting groups started. Pat and Stephanie have done a BUNCH of worm workshops in a number of different schools (have even created business cards for themselves as The Worm Ladies. :) ) And another school teacher (works in Old Town) started a composting program for her second graders. They have pits and spinning drums and will be adding worms. And will be implementing a small school garden. Very cute. *Inspiring on all counts!*

Photo of Jon doing a compost demonstration at the ABQ Open Space center. March 2011.

Welcome to Henhood Lola & Charro! And LUCY!

Well, it happened! The big, burly, blonde sisters, Lola and Charro, each laid their first egg this past week (the first week of November). Lola was first - Tuesday Nov 1st, midday. In the nestbox--good girl! She skipped a day, laid her second on Thursday. Skipped a day and laid #3 Saturday. Being something of a drama queen, after laying it, she suddenly seems to have been smitten with the idea of motherhood. *Right. Teen mom. Day three.* She looked at us defiantly: "I'm going to raise this baby. I don't care if I have to do it alone. It's... it's the RIGHT thing to do!"

Scarlett, who has been squeezing out an egg every day for the last month (half her body weight, poor thing), stomped up the ramp and just stared at the languishing Lola. You could see Scarlett thinking, "You're kidding, right? ...You know that's my favorite spot. You're still sitting there?! *Seriously?!!*" Then she'd sigh, stomp back down the ramp, and go back to foraging in the tomato bed. At some point, she hiked BACK up the ramp. You could see her jerking her head back and forth, and almost read her mind "...Like, take a hike, Fluffy Pants. I'm about to pop!"
[ Silence ]
Lola actually managed to turn her bulk around in the tiny box, giving Scarlett her butt by way of a reply. ' Talk to the Hand/ tail feathers--Short Stuff. This is Motherhood we're talking about!'
Unable to wait, Scarlett ducked into the less private of the nest boxes, closed her eyes and pushed out an egg (her biggest yet), tossed a few bits of straw on it and stomped off in disgust.

Lola eventually got bored, or realized her precious egg was missing, and came ambling out. (Her anxious, newbie chicken moms were VERY relieved.)

Later in the day, we were shocked to discover a second brown egg! We're 90% sure it was Charro's, though we're sad to say we missed the excitement. We suspect that Lucy will start laying by the end of the week, judging by her crouch/ startle response. The silvers, 'my girls,' are apparently not even CLOSE. Very funny. They seem to have looked at the entire egg-laying thing and decided it wasn't for them. grin.

Baby monitor (Predator Detection System) - Cold weather (first frost, first killing frost) - Closing the windows
I need to look up the weather history, but roughly we had our first round of freezing weather right on schedule, Wednesday night the third week of October (25th?). Though we had frost in low spots around the yard, a lot of relatively tender plants made it. The first killing frost hit the middle of last week--burned the nasturtium vine up front, singed the chaste tree, completely finished off the tomatoes, etc.

We know we've got a chicken-eating raccoon in the neighborhood, so now that it's cold & we really need to close the bedroom window at night, we've been fretting about whether we'd hear if something started waging an assault on the coop. We ended up buying a Baby Monitor. :)

The first night (Wed), we tried it on batteries. As the temps plummeted, the [NEW] batteries gave up... by 9pm! It was a wash. So bright and early Thursday morning, G went shopping for a heavier extension cord. $60 and 24 hours later, we tried our predator monitoring system a second time, this time plugged into the grid.

As these things go, we ended up having to crank up the volume because the dogs sleep next to the bed and they snore! (Add the forced air heater huffing, and the hum of the humidifier and periodic buzz of the refrigerator. Good Lord). I don't think either of us slept worth a damn. Which should change once the novelty wears off. The funny part is that *someone/one of the hens* periodically makes a purring sound! (snoring? sighing?) Very sweet. Who knew?! We also now know that they wake up at, literally, the crack of dawn. There was rustling, pecking, shuffling & thumping, with the occasional verbal comment (probably Lola) at about quarter after 6. :)

P.S. Middle children always get ignored. Poor Lucy. Lovely, sweet, handsome Lucy laid HER first egg Tuesday (Nov 8th). We actually had a confusing couple of days trying to sort out which one belonged to whom. Saturday the 12th I spent most of the day in the coop off and on, watching and filming them. So Lucy's eggs are smooth and a slightly more pinkish tan. Charro's are au lait, a warm coffee shade. Lola... in the intervening several weeks... Lola's have often had dark brown spots and have had shells with a rough, gritty texture. Ouch!

We also decided that Lola probably wasn't broody after all. She just tends to take her time (like--45 minutes. She's a grand dame--not to be hurried). :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

First in the Flock: Our Tiny Would-be Rooster Lays an Egg

Wednesday morning, Sept 28th, Scarlett, our tiny but 'tude-ful leghorn finally put to rest any bets that she was really Scarface the Rooster. She successfully laid her first egg. The first for our entire flock!

We, and her other five sister hens, were very relieved, since she had been acting like a maniac for nearly a week. Hyper, eating furiously (is she going to pop? OMG!), digging huge craters everywhere (her idea of a nest?), pacing up and down the ladder to the roost box, pecking her sisters (hard!) for no apparent reason (out of the blue--what did I do to you?!), and periodically erupting in long squawk-fits we took to be the chicken equivalent of swearing like a sailor. At some point in the last few days, we noticed all five of her sisters huddled over in a corner--apparently trying to steer clear of her while searching for a way out. They were cutting 5 sets of imploring eyes at us: 'She's gone nuts! let us out of here!'

I think I speak for all of us when I say Congratulations Scarlett! (And--phew--not a moment too soon).

Below are some snapshots of the proud young mom on her Eventful Day of Official Henhood. G chased her around with the camera for nearly an hour. As you can see, she had a hard time getting the our jaunty, young celebrity to STAND STILL for a photo! We are both particularly fond of the one where she is a blur. :)

When she did slow down, it was for a relaxing dirt bath. But honestly, that wasn't very photogenic. I'm not posting the most embarrassing of those photos to help her keep her self-esteem intact. Between you and me, she looked like a dead seagull. (Bedraggled. Motherhood is hell.)

Given her rough beginnings, (ratty bath pix be damned) we are so proud we're bursting. And extremely relieved that she was healthy enough to make the hop to henhood. Yay Scarlett!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Weather forecast - pleasant

Chicken Portraits ~4months

I have been so busy with work and school and helping at least a little in the garden, that I haven't had time to make any new chicken videos. :( But here are a couple of stills. Lucy the red one--striking a pose. Herbella the silver and white one is very handsome. And Scarlett the leghorn--she's looking a little bit silly. They are all in the middle of losing their juvenile clothes. So now, instead of her signature (enormous) 747 tail, Scarlett is down to ONE lone feather. (In this photo there were 2--see them sticking out?!) She is still very small, but continues to sport a HUGE 'tude.


I think we have 9 plants: 1 Mexican mini, 1 Sungold mini, 1 Juliette, Stupice (3?), Brandywines (2?) and 1 Mortgage Lifter. G has made 2 kinds of salsa. We've eaten them sliced, just as is. Or straight off the vine. We've made several batches of sauce. And have dried a few (very tasty!) Today we juiced a bunch of the little ones. We're reducing it to eat for soup this evening, since we got a little rain and the temperature turned cool and made something warm sound inviting.

AND, as you can see from the bottom photo... they are still coming on strong.

Today we caught THREE grasshoppers, which we gave to the chickens. Scarlett is the queen of the bug eaters! There is another big one that got away. :( That said, apparently there are enough tomatoes to go around. The chickens have had so many, that after awhile they get bored. They want us to try harder at catching that grasshopper.

Eggplant, Peppers, Chard & Beets

The double-dug bed looks kind of ratty to me, taken as a whole. But upon closer examination, there are some fascinating things in it. Owing to Teresa J., we have several varieties of peppers that came to us as mystery seedlings. We're a little afraid, actually. We think the lovely red cherry-looking things are 'the peppers of death.' And we're not sure how hot or what color the small finger-shaped guys are. We have at least one "Italian" pepper plant that G remembers buying (a little fuzzy about its qualities/ what to expect from it though...) On a safer note, there are 2 lovely bell peppers we could probably harvest at any point. The eggplants are not as lovely or wildly productive as two years ago (in the back corner of the garden proper), but they have been giving us small but tasty fruit. *I know, critics everywhere.* Same with the chard. Small but pretty plants. It's a sin to confess this, but most of their lovely leaves have been snarfed by the chickens. Oh, and there are STILL a few beets left. We just ate sliced ones in vinaigrette with dinner last night. Very tasty.

Note to self: next year--more corn!

We've eaten half a dozen ears of corn. It was tender and succulent. Think we would have happily eaten three times that amount!

The Basil Report

Kind of fascinating to see how the same kind of plant fares in different places around the yard. The plant in a big lovely pot right outside the front door seemed to drain too fast. It stayed stringy and tough. (That surprised me. ) G put one out with the tomatoes. That one wasn't especially handsome either. Again, too well-drained? Ditto the three plants in front of the garden proper. The one that is gorgeous and begging to be savored as pesto, was down at the low end of the herb bed. (pictured here).

Sweet Potato Vines, Potatoes, Asparagus, Grapes

Two years ago, we had a huge harvest of sweet potatoes. Last year, we put the vines in a different spot on a slight slope (we think it was too dry?) and didn't get much. This year, G put them in at the back of the garden proper. They struggled for the first (2months?), but recently have absolutely taken off. In one of the photos, you'll see them in the bottom left--they have crept completely out of the side of the garden and are headed for the yard. (there is some coriopsis trying to hold its own next to them.)

The asparagus G put in in the spring seem to be happy; they are finally lacy and huge! She also put in regular potatoes, but I'm not sure we've worked out our relationship to those yet.

The grape vines were dealt a severe blow by our harsh winter last winter. They came back, though we aren't getting more than 4 or 5 bunches. And even in their anemic state, we still really need to build them a trellis.

So in the garden proper: a wall of green! Sweet potatoes, potatoes, asparagus and beans, bordered by grapes, sunflowers and masses of morning glories.

Shocking: volunteer winter squash & lovely cucumber

In other years, the squash bugs have completely decimated any and all squash & cucumber vines. So I'm delighted (dumbfounded?!) to report that for whatever reason, we have not only a very handsome lemon cucumber vine. And a very entertaining SOMETHING that popped up back in the compost pile. Need to look to see when it froze last year. We were thinking it was heart-wrenchingly early. (September something?! That it snuck up on us & cut the season very short. Got our fingers crossed that this season will be more "normal"--that both vines will have a chance to deliver handsomely. (Oh, the joy and agony, right?!)

Green Beans--yum.

This year we had a mix of bush beans that G planted (~6 plants?), and volunteers (roughly in the spot where last year's bush beans were-- ~4 bush and ~4 vines, which seem to be a mix of yellow snaps, Italian beans, and Kentucky wonders). Harvested a big pile over the weekend! Also in the picture, a very tasty little lemon cucumber. And of course, yet another mound of tomatoes.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fall Foreshadowed

Just to remind myself next year or the year after, when I've completely forgotten... we have had a week of cooler temperatures. No rain to speak of -- darn it! But cooler. Lovely sleeping weather.