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). :)