Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lola languishes

Oh, the agony of molting season. (And you thought you had bad hair days?!!)  Poor Lola looks very ratty.  And now, Charro is lookin' pretty good--and letting everyone know it.

Maude (the black and white) thinks the camera is meant for her!  Why would we waste our time on her threadbare (generally conceited, Miss Piggy ) sister?!

Yes, I'll admit, Charro is looking pretty spiffy in her soft new golden suit.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rollercoaster Temperatures...

While New York and New Jersey are still trying to get back to normal after superstorm Sandy, followed by this past weekend's chilly No'easter, we have had unseasonably warm days.  The drought still holding us in its clutches.

Apparently we have a blast of a cold front headed our way, just to liven things up.

Oh, on the bright side, Charro's leg is much better.  AND her new feathers are coming in: she is looking sleek and lustrous again!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

This morning's ditch walk... cottonwood color.

Doesn't fall sneak up on you every year? I am struggling to notice... lots and lots of green, a bit of yellow here and there around the edges. Oh, and I heard a few cranes Sunday morning. And a few more today on our walk, though I stopped and searched the sky and couldn't spot them. [Obviously--no picture!]

Egg production definitely slowing down...

What with molting, and being "older," the girls have definitely slowed down in their egg laying.  (If one needed yet another sign of fall....)  They are now giving us 2-4 eggs a day.  But absence doesn't make a very impressive photograph.  We were very surprised, and laughed a lot, when Scarlett skipped a day, then laid a TINY, Little egg.  It reminds me of the Silkies's eggs (the bantams).  Go Scarlett!!


About three weeks ago, we noticed that the berries on the huge pyracantha bushes along the ditch had ripened.  I don't know that I had ever really associated this with fall.  I kind of hated them growing up--for their vicious thorns.  As I get older and crave distance from my neighbors, and enjoy bird watching, I am appreciating them much more.  (The berries DID turn/ ripen with the season, didn't they?!)

Baby carrots!

End of summer...

First Chicken to Molt--Poor Charro

Well, all the books told us this would happen....  about three weeks ago, poor Charro started blowing out feathers.  She looks very ratty.  Not sure, but it may have lost her her spot as Queen.  Lola, her arch rival, is still as big and fluffy as ever.



Monday, August 6, 2012

Last of July, First of August 2012

The first batch of grapes is now a pile of raisins!  Over the weekend, I harvested another bin full.  Didn't get them "cooking" yet though. 

G picked the gorgeous eggplant (the biggest I remember?), and several big lovely green peppers and made ratatoulle.  Soooo good. 

Apples are starting to blush--almost but not quite ripe.  Lots of messy fallen ones.  What to do?!

Over the last few days the hens have expanded their diet (ugh).  Friday they caught a sparrow.  (Long, gristly process trying to tenderize and pulverize it enough for someone to eat at least bits of it.  I guess it gave them something to do for the day.  At one point there were wing feathers sticking out of Charro's beak.)  Then Sunday afternoon, Charro nailed a young lizard.  Yikes.  We think the current mouse total is 4.  Mind you, we are completely overrun with sparrows, lizards AND mice, so I don't think the hens are even making a dent, but...  Speaking of predators, we were shocked to look up from our chairs in the shade, to find that  a roadrunner was strolling through. 

Scarlett continues to vault over the fence into the garden.  Sigh.  So far she is just disturbing G's straw mulch but not actually hurting anything.  ?!

G put up a few more rounds of fence for tomato cages.  Those are working nicely.  Need to take photos--should have tomatoes "soon."  (Maybe I should start taking daily photos.  I don't have a good eye for how long it takes from various sizes and varieties.  A week?  10 days?  Shorter for the cherries, longer for the romas and Stupichas?)

Couple of very cute melon babies dangling off the back fence, of all things.  G is trying to decide how to support them.  (We laughed about Teresa Johansen using an sports bra for a cantaloupe two years ago.)

Entirely redid out little solar fountain.  The new one I bought was half the power of the old...  so our old arrangement wasn't going to work at all.  100# of gravel, 6 12" pavers, a new fiberglass pot, some epoxy and a day and a half later, we're back in business.  We actually sat under our umbrella, reading summer junk food books for several hours late Sunday, serenaded by the gentle burble.  :)  Still a few pieces from the old one to either give away or stow.  (argh).

Last night--several rounds of very light rain.  1/8 inch?  Thunder and lightning that made Osa a whining, pacing mess (she kept G up most of the night).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Grapes & eggplant

The grapes are at the back of the garden, in a spot that's hard to get to, so we don't keep really good tabs on them.  But we noticed that the birds seem to be spending a lot of time back there, so we battled our way back there over the weekend.  Darned if we didn't find 8-10# that were ripe and amazing.  We plucked & washed them, and put them in the food drier for winter raisins.  :)

G has huge eggplant plants this summer.  When I went to take a photo last evening, I was surprised by the number and size.  Time to hit the recipe books!

The Sunchokes - 8 wks later

Really have not done well documenting the miraculous changes in the yard and garden this summer, bounty largely due to the skill and dedication of Farmer Gloria.  Supported by irrigation almost entirely by irrigation.  We had a couple of lovely rains the week of the 4th of July.  And one or two light rains since.  Period.  So anyway, here are two photos of the sunchokes--almost exactly 8 wks apart.  At this point, even with only intermittent water and with the chickens nipping at them (oh, and Gloria slipping and falling into them a few days ago)--even with all those handicaps, they are nearing 6'.

8 weeks ago.  Looks like the tomatoes had not been planted either.  *Amazing*

Lola and Herbella are trying to figure out how to get their beaks on those tender sprouts.

Not a great photo--see the green sprig just above the clip holding the shade cloth?  The tomatoes look good too, don't they?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Garlic drying in the shed, pine bark, new raised bed...

Sunday afternoon we harvested all the garlic in the garden proper.  Still the small bed near the apple trees to go.  G. says there were Polish whites.  They are huge!  Then there is another white, much smaller & prone to weird third thumbs.  (don't know how to describe it.  should take a picture.)  There there were some huge hard-necked purples. 

Persecuted sun chokes exploding up and out. We're standing up to all the whining and wheedling and guilt-slinging the chickens can dish--determined to give them some shade and a place to hide and play a month from now.  As we remember, they'll need to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 4' to survive the girls.  [Not pictured yet--stay tuned.]

Stubborn raspberry sprigs resolutely popping up everywhere all the time.  I spent about an hour digging up roots.  G just shook her head.  She's probably right.  Best to just "mow" them off. [Last year, G finally got tired of being poked to death and hacked them all down.  But their root network is extensive.  I've seen new growth 12' from the original spot.]

Speaking of mowing, G gave the new grass in the front its first-ever "haircut."  It looks really nice.  Still pretty tender, but the dogs haven't been too destructive so far.  G is still watering it pretty regularly, so Ruby likes to lay in the shady damp spots.

After a very strenuous, hot, sweaty morning, the second raised bed is in.  We had enough topsoil to fill it about halfway.  Still need the ribs for shade cloth, etc.  But it feels like progress.

Having gotten rid of one pile (the rest of the topsoil), we promptly created a larger new one:  pine bark to put on our paths!  Not nearly as heavy as the dirt, but as dusty.  We both had dark smudges all over our faces, necks, arms and legs.

Chickens - G is working really hard to keep them as cool as possible, and tolerably entertained.  She let them roam around in the ditch for a few minutes yesterday.  Also keeping the little 'wading pool' full, and flooding the well around the apple tree when possible.  Aye gods.  


Hot, hot, hot, hot and dry, dry, dry, dry.  Wildfires pretty much everywhere.  :(

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Who is eating the radishes?!

Took a photo of these guys. I was hoping to have some greens for the hens, but hungry caterpillars got them instead. So I've been feeding the caterpillars to the hens, but apparently not fast enough! What are they, aside from a bleak reminder that I have forgotten almost everything I read about insects over the last couple of years. :( I figured it would happen... with a third of an acre of grass, weeds, trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables, chickens and bird baths--bugs just don't attract my attention they way they did when I lived alone in the heart of the city with a postage stamp-sized back yard, potted plants, and in ground irrigation. Here in the north valley, the good news and the bad news is that there is so darned much to ponder! 

Transit of Venus...

Add photo & quotes from the astrophysicist heard on NPR a day or so ago...

About Drought...

The Last of the Straw:

G. went to get straw to use for bedding in the coop, and to mulch the garden.  At Miller's Feed, he shrugged shaking his head. "We're out," he said, "Completely out.  And probably aren't going to get any.  Everything is so dry farmers are switching to other crops.  She went over to Dan's Boots and Saddles.  He had 50 bales for [price was staggering--$6.99?].  He said that once it was gone he didn't expect to get any more either.  So G told him she'd take as big a load as they could cram into the back of the little decrepit Ford Ranger.  10 bales.  $75 she said later.  Then mused that we'd better start mulching with newspaper.  This has also been surfacing for dairy farmers.  We heard this dismal piece on the radio recently, about the number of dairy farmers going out of business in NM this past year.  Apparently milk prices are highly regulated by the federal government (--who? how? why?)... and feed prices have gone through the roof (--what were the figures on this?).  At the moment the report said that dairy folk were losing $3/ per 12 gallons.

And what exactly is "straw"?  Where and how is it generally grown and distributed?

So exactly what is the precipitation data?  Where would I find someone talking about this?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Blur that was May

Here are the items I want to post about, before I forget:
1. the Tully tree gets planted.  Hawthorne Crabapple?
2. New outdoor furnishings -- 2 chairs, 2 new nifty folding chairs for going to events or for cocktails in the coop, [for G's birthday: ]a very handsome 9' umbrella, a new birdbath and a spiffed up birdbath out of a former plant stand
3. G planting and tending new grass right outside the front door
4. G buying and planting a Spanish broom
5. New raised bed  & new half barrel
6. G buys and installs a tea tape system in the garden proper
7. MOTHS either Monday or Tuesday we had a 3rd wave of those goofy brown moths!  (~21st)
8. Temperatures.  OMG so hot.  Sooo bad.  Setting records.
9. Chicken report   G extends their lair to include the apple tree.  We have that horrible interlude with Scarlett's bloody head!  :(  Starting Sunday, since it has been so hot, we decided to let them sleep with the roost open... basically trust to the integrity of the coop itself, and the open window/ baby monitor.  That way we also don't have to go let them out as early.  (When is the solstice?)  Lola has been pounding on the doors a few minutes earlier each day...  think she currently 'goes off' at around 5:50.  >That is getting old, at least on weekdays when every moment I get to lay there snoozing is precious.  Now they can come downstairs in their jammies and have some breakfast at their leisure.
10. Annular Eclipse!!  Sunday May 20th  ~7pm.  What fun to watch with friends and other jolly folk sprawled at a high point near the UNM golf course.

General Garden Report
Think it went straight to too hot for the peas.  We probably won't get much of a harvest.  The garlic fields everywhere, on the other hand, look lovely.  Not sure what all the heat will do for their size though.  I suspect we've been cheated out of a month of growth.  The row of swiss chard in the ground looks fantastic.  I transplanted several as I thinned last weekend.  Not sure any of them will make it.  I probably should have put shade cloth over them?  Dang.  G put in onion starts, which are looking good.  And leeks which didn't do as well.  We got her a whiskey barrel so she could start some potatoes... which she did.  We planted nasturtiums, some of which are coming along.  :)  G has a lovely flock of tomato babies she grew from seed.  Some pepper plants and eggplants she bought, which will probably finally make it into the new raised bed today or tomorrow.  Oh, and two basil plants M brought her.  G is sprouting a sweet potato so we can get cuttings which we can then put in water to root.  >Quite a production.  Kinda cute.  Makes me feel like a happy 6th grader again.

My balloon flower made it, by the way.  :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

First two weeks of April

G & compost materials 2

Composters in action:
Yesterday (Sunday Apr 15th), we took apart the pile that had gone down to ambient temperature. It didn't look ready to harvest, so we put half of it in one of the tumblers with some coffee grounds and urine (hoping the nitrogen and increased mass would jump start that one).
We used the other half as the bottom layer of a new pile, and flipped the pile that had so much chicken manure in it. As the books warned, it was pretty gushy. We're hoping the air will help it cure. We're not sure if we feel like it was a success or not. It climbed up to 150 at some point. And definitely cooked along. Then it hovered at 130 for several days before tapering down to 100-110. G thinks that we might have liked the output better if we had flipped it while it was still hot vs. waiting for it to cool down. *Not sure.* If nothing else, my dissertation bits have completely disappeared. And the pile is now a third to a quarter its original size. Most of the straw is gush.
The ingredient list for our third pile is pretty impressive. We estimate the pile requires mixing, then lifting and arranging 9 full wheelbarrows of materials.
~6o gallons of leaves from G's herculean efforts cleaning out the ditch
~30# shredded office paper from NMEL (that was a heavy bag!)
~3 gallons of chicken manure stew
~1.5 gallons urine
~5 gallons of expresso grounds hauled all the way from the coffee shop in the library at UNM (~40pounds!)
~7 gallons of alfalfa cut from along the ditches near the house and chopped into small, salad-like bits
1 black plastic leaf bag full of weeds G. gathered around the yard (pulverized in a trash can using the weed whacker)
1 cardboard filing box full of pine cones (gathered around campus the end of last week)
Oh, and ~1 gallon of mixed kitchen waste... orange peel we chopped finely and soaked in water for a few days, coffee grounds from the house, filters and all, 2 cups of baked beans we forgot to put into the fridge after eating them for dinner earlier this week, some peanut shells (probably should have crunched those up better), a cup or 2 of old, moldy spaghetti, some banana and cucumber peel, and onion skins and tails. :) **Note, the dogs actually followed me to the pile with longing looks on their faces. How do they know?!! I put all of this yucky stuff safely in the middle of the heap.

G checked this morning & found spots where it was up to 120. Cross your fingers! There are a lot of weed and elm seeds in the mix. If we don't hit 130 for a solid day, it could be a mess.

The Plant Parade: The daffodils are now long gone. The lilacs are out; they smell lovely. And at the end of the week the yellow lady banks on the west side of the house bloomed! My eyesight isn't great any more, I had to walk out and take a closer look to make sure I wasn't seeing dead leaves since it's been so dry. The Annual Elm Blizzard: Over the last two weeks we have endured the annual elm seed blizzard. :( After Saturday's bruising gusts, the trees in the yard look bare, so now we just have to deal with what they dumped on us. Mats of papery tan seeds. (I always intended to investigate the facts and figures for the weight, mass and sheer number of seeds one mature Chinese Elm produces annually.) I am impressed and de-pressed at the same time--staring at an enemy face to face, steely and cold. I look at them and think of all the weeding in the months ahead. :( I was worried that my balloon flower didn't make it through the winter, but poking around carefully in the leaves in the approximate spot where we planted it the end of last summer, I spied a little tendril of new growth. She made it! :) The big bush Mary & JJ gave us is in full bloom, so is the red bud (buzzing with bees). And G's rose bush--it has some blooms coming! The yellow irises are up in a neighbor's yard down the street. I'm afraid ours will not bloom again this year. I don't see any sign of blossoms. G's garlic beds look fantastic! We're having trouble forcing ourselves to fence the chickens out of the tomato bed... it will make serious inroads on their territory. Hmmm. We've been trying to figure out how to provide them with various kinds of greenery to shred as compensation-slash-diversion.

awful winds on Saturday (Apr 14th). Yuck. Very, very dry. Continued generally above seasonal temps. Though it dipped down to ~31 twice in the last week, cold enough to wilt the new growth on Gloria's rose bush. :( Not sure how it affected the apple blossoms. They might have been far enough along, and enough mass on those trees (and a couple of feet higher in the yard, as ridiculous as that seems)... they look okay. We'll see.