Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Late November

KILLING FROST: Stacked the new bales of straw at the back of the coop in the nick of time.  Saturday night (Nov 18) it was 27 degrees when we went to bed at 10pm.  Poor chickens!!  I went out with a flashlight and plugged in the plant mat.  It was 19 degrees when we got up a bit before 6.  

The Mulberry leaves turned a dark sullen avocado shade and started raining down.  (There were huge 'puddles' of them up and down the street where other people's trees had done the same thing.  Always makes me think of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree...  Sunday I made sure to stuff feedsacks full of straw and put them up on top of their roost box to help insulate/ cover up the air holes.  Also put a heavy towel over the inside window in the L.  We bought 2 12' chunks of polycarbon roofing and started putting those up along the north side.  Have gaps that will need plastic, and still need to do the door and the small east side.  But it was definitely better.  >Which was a good thing because Sniglet has huge bald patches, poor baby.  And Monday morning, it was 17 degrees!  Mind you, very disorienting because when I got up this morning (Tuesday), I did a double-take:  46!  I wondered if maybe one of the doves wasn't roosting on it?  That kind of range has to be terribly hard on everything:  plants, trees, grass, bugs, birds, mice....

(Not pictured).  The Cottonwoods have now passed from glorious, blazing yellow to browns, and are starting to fall.  The Elms are shedding everywhere.  There was some wind through the night; they were suddenly threadbare this morning.


The arugula seeds from a season or two ago has sprouted up in a low spot--where dogs and people have worn a path... where any extra water drains and settles.  I thought it was charming, in a shaggy, unkempt sort-of way, and thought the chickens would enjoy eating it.  So I have been mindful to carry it a can full of water now and then.  It survived the bitter temperatures over the weekend--I noticed this morning it was still thriving.  *What a hearty plant.  Wish I liked the taste....*

Pissy Lola.  She's starting to look pretty ratty too. ~A couple weeks behind Butterknife/ aka Sniglett.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Flavia & Butterknife/ Sniglet molting, Lola starting...

I never remember the timing from year to year, so I can't say if each hen has a predictable pattern?  Butterknife/ Sniglet, the small, feisty Buff Orpington. looks awful like she had a run-in with a cat.  Her neck is bare, she bald patches all over, and just the pitiful, beat-up remnants of a tail.

Flavia started a bit earlier.  She also looks terrible, but there's hope: her tail feathers are halfway out (or "in"?) again.  Hens really look bedraggled without those perky butt feathers.

I noticed this morning that Big Fluffy Lola had a wing feather sticking out at a bizarre angle.  They sometimes hang like that for hours, like a 6-year-old with a loose tooth. (I wonder if the hens make fun of each other?!  Whenever I hear people being wistful about the free and easy life of birds I just roll my eyes, and think how itchy and miserable it must be to molt.) 

With all the stray feathers, the yard is starting to look like a hawk caught something.  Herbella, the stately, old Silver Lace Wyandotte went through the process a month ago.  She looks fabulous!  But there are black and white feathers still caught in all the corners of the coop, now being rapidly joined by apricot plumes and the assorted russet one with black and white specks. 

New load of straw

Cottonwoods at peak

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Good-bye Earheart (24 Apr to 6 Nov 2017)

I'm not sure I'm ready to talk about it yet....  She flew over the fence at the wrong time and place, and the dogs got her.  It seems to have been a mercifully quick end; they snapped her neck, but didn't maul her. 

"What a pretty chicken."  Such gorgeous feathers.  Massive amounts of personality.  And, unfortunately for us and for you, big agile wings!  Her cheek feathers made her look like she was surprised by everything.  (Maybe she was!)


We will miss you SOOOO much.  :(

Good-bye Rosa (23 April 2014 - 31 October 2017)

Who knew you could love a chicken, right?!  And we did.  Do.  We have had a terribly sad 10 days: our flock went from 11 to 9.  Rosa - the big bully australorp (3 1/2y rs old) and Earheart - the irrepressible Easter Egger (6 mo.)  We will miss them very much.  Thank you both for your companionship.  May you free range safely in the Great Beyond.

When I got home Friday 21 Oct after work, she was in a miserable loaf.  When she tried to stand up, her left leg was at a weird angle. I thought she had wrenched or fractured it (maybe she jumped off something and landed wrong?)  The rest of the gang seemed to realize she wasn't well, and were starting to go after her.  I grabbed her and put her in a little run by herself.  Then we hustled around setting up a dog crate which JUST fit inside the coop, so she could have a safe place to sleep.  The vet at Rio Bravo was able to work her in the next morning, thank goodness.  She thought it might be Mericks (sp?)  Chicken herpes.  And/ but she gave us a round of huge antibiotics & some tiny anti inflammatories to give her.

Giving a chicken a pill... oh my. 
Wrapping them up in a towel.  They are very cute with just their head sticking out.  We spent time with her.  We sang to her.  Gave her treats.  And for several days, we were really excited.  She seemed to get much better.  We thought she was going to make a full recovery.  But it didn't last.  As the week wore on, she clearly lost ground.  More time in a miserable loaf.  Back to having diarrhea.  Less interest in eating.  More difficulty walking.  On Halloween, I had taken a vacation day so we were home and could take her in/ with the idea that she was suffering/ there wasn't anything else the vet could suggest by way of treatment, so... to let her go.  They wrapped her up in a towel, laid her on her side, and were trying to find a vein when the tech said--oh, I think she's gone.  She just convulsed.'  And she was.  She died on the table.  :( 

We were concerned about Merricks, but the state autopsy was going to cost $200.  The vet offered to do a necropsy for $60 (no histopathology).  And we paid to have her cremated because the vet did give her the barbiturates just to be sure & that would make her little body a danger if the dogs managed to find her and dig her up.  :(   We left with our empty cat carrier.  [Histopathology: microscopic examination of tissue to study manifestations of disease]

Dr. Manzolina called around 6, and delivered complicated, mixed news:  Rosa did not have Merricks (phew... that is great news re. the rest of the flock).  But she died from a fatty liver condition.  I've been killing them slowly with my generous pile of Trader Joe's raw unshelled sunflower seeds every night.   What a horrible shock.  How can you tell if a hen is fat?!!  :(

In shock, starting Wednesday, loose greens as an evening treat.  Also starting to dial back the amount of organic feed from the co-op that is loose ingredients in favor of a prepared chow.  I admit, I've known for a long time they were 'not eating their Wheaties.'  I.e. they pick the corn out FIRST, and don't bother eating the bits that probably have all the vitamins in them.

Oh Rosa.  I'm soooo sorry.  I feel awful.  She was one of our 2nd batch.  23 April 2014.  Flavia, Rosa, Sophie, Starbuck, Moma Bear, and Sadie Buttercup -->Butterknife/ (now I call her Sniglet).  We have generally agreed this was a more high-struck, more pecky group.  The Gold Lace Wyadottes -- Starbuck and Moma Bear were kind-of mean.  And the Buff too.  A small nippy little thing!  Sophie has gone broody repeatedly... which was stressful in a while different way.  ?!

The story about Rosa is that she has always been a big gal.  When they were adolescents, we started to get really nervous.  One of the little Australorps suddenly had a really big beak, and really big, thick legs, and long tail feathers.  OMG.  Is it a rooster?   -- We were never so happy to see an egg in our life!  Massively relieved.  She is just Scandinavian!  A big-boned gal.

Friday, November 3, 2017

First Week of November

Not really looking forward to the end of Daylight Saving Time Sunday, because it will be dark before any of us get out of work.  :(   If I remember correctly, it also means we have to crawl back through our clash with the morning sun -- work is east, south, east, east.  Stabbing me in the head the whole way.  Until it's dark in the morning too.  Think of it as a period of rest and renewal, right?  sigh.

The light in the late afternoons has been utterly stunning.  And rustling leaves in every hue.


Photogenic family members

(Left) Juliet photobombs the timelapse shoot
(Right) Pong, standing on my lap, captured through the magic of burst mode

G hired professional tree trimmers.

It was a bit of a rude shock to come home to... the elms had lovely new shapes, but it felt pretty bald out where we like to sit -- a clear shot over the fence to the neighbors instead of some shaggy intermittent cover.

She asked them to leave the pile they had run through their chipper.  For the first few days it actually did a bit of composting down inside.  Never up to the temps of a hot pile, but it did smoke a little in the nippy morning air.  The thermometer readings were around 125/ 130.  Made me wish, AGAIN, that we had the time and energy to build a few piles and run them through the cycle.  It is the most amazing experience to build a gigantic mud pie and watch it bubble and boil down into something that actually looks like dirt in the space of a month.

Johnny Jump-ups :)


Double white and purples, some traditional yellow and deep purples, and a handful of brilliant orange-yellows.  Not cheap, but the plants were robust and lovely.  I am proud to say I brought them home and planted them immediately.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Late September, Early October

SUMMER SUCCESSES:  The small coleus and impatiens in pots under the shade area were truly gorgeous.  So were the flowers in the cement block planters (including the happiest of all my dozen snow in summer plants).  Wild sunflowers and morning glories--crazy wild enthusiastic rangy beauty.  Gloria's onions!  Otherwise, for all our work and watering, not a huge success.  The grass patch, after struggling and looking thready all summer, looked terrific the week after our torrential rains.  No secret what IT loves.

Tues Oct 5th .17"  (back to our normal piddling amounts)  Then nothing.  Now it's mid-October and bone dry... everything cracked and wilting.  :(  What we DO have after our brief rainy season, is a CARPET of those fall weed seeds (what are they called?!) 

We had a hard freeze scare Monday night, Oct 9th.  I blasted home and put up the window glass and clear plastic roofing panels to keep the wind off the hens.  Then we covered some of the zinnias & most of the tomatoes.  I believe we dodged a bullet.  It was 33 when I got up at 6, sagged to 32 for about an hour as the sun was coming up.  Sweet potatoes got burned. Think everything else is okay.


R and K Reproductive strategies, right?  The black locust is LOADED with seed pods this year.  And since we are increasingly worried that using them as a mulch in that bed is killing off everything else, I've been spending a fair amount of time and energy gathering them up and relocating them along the top of the ditch where the dirt is bare.  The tree guy told Gloria he didn't think they were poisonous, just that the mulch was too thick in the bed.  (Note to self: research that at some point.)

Fall is so bittersweet, with the days getting shorter and shorter, the nights progressively colder, pill bugs and spiders sneaking into the house in flocks, looking for a safe place to overwinter.  Starting to worry about the overnight lows... you know the killing frost will come.  But we are hoping it will be in November and give us one last spell of warmth, a few more weeks before it happens.  Sorrow.  Loss.  Growing darkness.  Rest. Renewal.

I was hauling some water over to pour on my spindly onion crop, and bent to look at the skeletal remains of my two pitiful spring chard plants.  OMG--they are FULL of tiny new green leaves:  a couple of plants that looked dead, quietly coming back to life.  (I missed having them to eat over the long hot summer).

Not pictured -- the dozen garlic cloves I asked G if I could plant in the bed where her onions were this spring (they were gorgeous).  When I came back about a week later and crouched down, you could see them poking up!  Also, I disturbed the soil in that spot--there was a dense mat of onion seedling (like spring grass).


Miscellaneous:  a new roll of 5' fencing in an attempt to contain Earheart.  She scared the crap out of us, sailing over into yard unexpectedly.  Gloria went out to do something, dogs dashing out with her to keep her company.  She saw a chicken blur go past and shrieked.  (Sunny doesn't have a collar!)  I came running out of the house.  Between us, we were able to grab both dogs and get them back inside.  By the time we found her, Miss E. was reconsidering her choice--pacing back and forth by the gate, obviously interested in retreating to safety, but not having gotten up the motivation or momentum to fly back over.  :(  That must have been Saturday morning (Oct 17).  After taking Abuelo for lunch, we stopped at Lowe's for fence.  Went home and put it up immediately.
Photo:  new taller fence.  Also pictured, the straw bale I gave them they are happily dismantling.  Makes the yard look cozy somehow.  What is it about bald, cracked, dry dirt...  :( 


RAIN - all at once

Tuesday Sept 26, 1.09"
Wednesday Sept 27, 1.08"
Average ANNUAL rainfall in Albuquerque:  6.88"

Friday, September 22, 2017

PS. Mid-August Onions, peaches & plums

Equinox - September 22nd.

( Photo?  Date?)  The elm branch that got cracked and torn, and is more or less a huge javelin poised to crash down and take out Father Joe's fence and/ or his bushes or the entryway to his side door.  Very frustrating that I didn't have a ladder tall enough to get up there and bring it down.  One of those things that, as my father's daughter, I should be able to do.  Ultimately, we got lucky.  It is still resting roughly where it was.  Eric's Tree Service should be coming any time now to clean it all up.  *Note - tree guy said they moved to the south valley.  And someone promptly stole his THIRTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLAR chipper.  As much as I have wanted a tiny residential-sized chipper, I felt terrible for him.

Late August, early September Herbella started molting.  Poor thing.  She looks so ratty without her tail feathers.  And so much smaller.  (Diminutive).  She does not, however, act embarrassed.  She totally bosses the youngsters around; requires the respect and perks due to a matriarch.
     Molting.  The chicken yard looks like a hawk got ahold of someone--feathers EVERYWHERE.  I can't remember from past years how long the process takes:  ~4-6 weeks.  I guess when it isn't YOU, you don't pay as careful attention.... She now has her tail feathers back and looks much more dignified.  We were happy to see her do it early so she won't be cold later in the season.  About the time she was over the worst of it, poor Sophie started.  So the chicken yard still looks alarming, only with a quieter color palette--the lustrous black of the Australorps.

On the heels of Hurricane Harvey (again, if it isn't you...)  Someone did a detailed wikipedia post already!  August 24th on, for like, a solid week of Biblical rain and flooding.

Hurricane Irma  From Sept 6, Wednesday, on we watched anxiously.  At one point it looked like it was going to hug the coast, keep fueling its ire, and absolutely flatten everything from the Keys on up.

Sunday, Sept 10  Took a break from hurricane-watching to create a ramp for the youngsters to use coming and going from their part of the roost box.  Was pretty limited in my options, so considering, think it came out very well.  Then, of course, there was the task of convincing the girls that it was a good idea....  (hmm.)

Friday, Sept 15, 2017 
Earheart laid her first egg!  (We got the 5 youngsters April 24th... how old does that make her?)

Mid-September - sudden sunflower jungle.  Lackadaisical onions.  Sunchokes and Maxamillians finally starting to bloom.  And our neglected mums.  Flower seeds planted in the cement block planters completely exceeded expectations.  Bachelor's buttons in several colors, Zinnias, and the late addition of some orange Portulacas. The sweet potatoes in the garden proper are a splendid dense carpet.  Tomatoes and peppers humming along.  (We are still using the marvelous white onions from early summer.)  Time to plant some garlic!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Yard and Garden - Mid-July

PLUMS - the tree is heavy with fruit (should have thinned it after it blossomed)...  the shape has gone all wonky too.  All our trees could use some pruning.  The lovely plums are taunting us.  They look like they are ripe (any day?), but so far are still unpleasantly tart.  *Waiting!*   A side note: we have put the chicks back there to run around and play and have some sky on several occasions. Very cute.

POTATOES - Think Gloria may have stopped piling more dirt on (which is how you convince the plants to produce more tubers?)  But the patch of plants is splendid.  Lush.  A dense tangle of foliage.  Oh, and 2 volunteer tomato plants (we'll have to see what they are) and a couple of sunflowers that have so far remained a modest size and are, thus, being allowed to stay.  One of our neighbors has already had blossoms for 3 weeks.  I haven't seen any blooms forming, so it will probably be mid-August at this rate.

SWEET POTATOES - Battling the heat, Gloria finished a new area in the garden proper and finally planted half a dozen sweet potato plants grown from slips, rooted, then hanging out on the wrought-iron coffee table for a month.  She draped a huge swath of shade cloth over them to help them survive while getting established.  The group near the apple trees all made it.  (They have been in at least a month now...  they wilt a little in the late afternoon, but bounce back by morning.) Wonder if they will be happy there?  Not sure how much sun that bed gets?  Want to say that Teresa Johansen grew some impressive ones in a bed along the front of her house/ which did not get tons of light.

ONIONS - Gloria's winding down.  All have been spectacular.  My raised bed of yellows, still puny/ struggling.  Can't say that the extra straw mulch I added made any difference.

HELIOTROPES - trying to pass themselves off as potato plants.  Big ones by the clothesline.  Smaller ones in half a dozen places.  Huge leaves bent at startling angles, swiveling like radar antennae.

Saw my first Morning Glories yesterday morning out the back window.  Deep pink ones fighting with the grape vines.  Gloria really had a craving to go to Osuna Sunday.  "To get something to finish out the flower cells along the outside of the garden."  I was worried about the weather blistering them, but she got a 6 pack of Portulacas and 6 of dwarf red snapdragons with handsome yellow throats.  When I looked last night, she had planted them all.  (What would the blessing, the prayer, be? For their survival?  For their late but wildly successful life nestled in dirt under a big sky?)

The Weather - more or less normal.  Mid-90s at the airport, which means high 90s for us.  Very low humidity.  No rain, no rain, no rain.  Night before last, it poured in the Heights and at UNM; we got 10 drops.  Didn't even register on the gauge.  Last night, it sprinkled lightly at about 10:30.  One-hundredth of an inch.  Seemed like it was more at the time.  At least it settled the dust.  And was enough that I could actually see through my windshield this morning.  Scattered clouds darting around in the late afternoon have helped us keep the chickens from frying.  Last night, the sunchokes were painfully wilted.  Unfortunately, NO water in the ditch?  (Not sure what schedule the Sandovals are on.  At the start of the summer, they were doing Tuesdays, but it was dry as a bone.  And again this morning too.)

Just looking around... the locust is full of seeds, long, gently curling stands of chartreuse.  Gloria thinks maybe as a mulch they poison other plants, so we probably need to gather them up and put them somewhere else.  The apple trees have been dropping golfball-sized apples, probably because they have gotten so little water?  The torn Elm limb is still aloft, hanging by a thread.  I am hoping it will drop down onto the limbs below it, then roll down into the ditch on our side, missing their fence.

Digging Dogs - after a quiet interlude, I found they had been digging along the walk up front (what is that poor bush called?)  what a mess?!  And then they went back to excavating along the top of the ditch just behind our sitting area.  Throwing dirt into the ditch.  sigh.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Yard and Garden - Mid-June 2017

Humidity yesterday at the airport - 3%. THREE!! We slumped to that level again today. Maria said, so what is the moisture level in plywood? (No doubt the air this week is drier than kiln-dried wood!) It is awful, because when I get home at 5:30, everything in the yard is at its worst droop. I come home hot and sweaty and irritable, and strolling down the walk everything looks like it is nearly dead. Highs - today 98. Tomorrow 101. Saturday 103. :( Brutal. However, the swamp cooler is working like it was a refrigerated air unit!

Trying to be aware of the schedule for ditch water. Just sludge last night (Wednesday). The Sandovals have arranged for maximum flow Tuesday afternoons. There probably would have been water to use into the early hours, but we had made arrangements to help Nelly walk her dog. Used it Saturday. **Say more about: Board of Directors for the Middle Rio Grande Water Conservancy District (Fascinating!)

All the Echinacea under the dead-but-not-dead Red Bud bloomed at once Sunday! The plants in the Iris bed (which actually look bushier and happier) are still in process. Wonder how this timing compares to other seasons?

First week of June, seeds maturing. Thrashed now into dreadlocks. Bleach-blonde mats. God love those indestructible plants... they are one of the few things that has seemed to keep thriving no matter how many times the dogs wrestle in them or dash through them.

Past drought. Now we only have 3 plants or so, spread all over (they ran for it!) It made me sad when I really looked. At one point, we had stolen seeds from everywhere and had made cute little envelopes for them, and had a resplendent stand of them along the house (just at the spot where the swamp cooler drains if it develops a leak). Could probably look thru old photos and find the year that was the high point. Flying Star had pale waxy yellow ones we replanted. And I bought a pack of seeds for the very deep maroon ones. In realizing and naming them gone missing, then taking stock of the few that had remained, there were a couple of weeks before any of them bloomed. Our surviving color palette was a mystery I considered. I have not taken the follow-up photos, but within the last 10 days, the question has been answered: two slightly different shades of medium red, a lovely even-hued medium pink, and a very happy white. I want to say I came across a woman writing flower poems--gorgeous, complicated, dark poems. And that she had a Hollyhock poem?

*sigh* Still haven't found a place for it. And/ but read about it online yesterday--the only thing it really can't handle is poorly drained soil: it gets root-rot.

Wish I knew where there was a handy yard stick. Would have been fun to chart their growth over the past 6 weeks. And/ or even now. How tall are they? Roughly 3' at the front end where they are tallest? Will probably open that up for the girls this weekend.

Very sad: one hen spoils it for the rest of them. Butterknife (aka Sniglet) heaved herself up onto the grape vines and hopped into the garden not once but three different times yesterday. With a heavy heart I went out and figured out how to close off the entire alleyway. The last few seasons we have ended up locking them all out of that space because we couldn't figure out how to keep Sniglet down on the ground/ out of the tomatoes and potatoes.

So much to yammer about - Our Onion Competition. Strawberries. Empty spots in the raised beds. Changing patterns of sun and shade. Piles of new pavers. Huge new ceramic planter (glossy dark blue). Canna lilies. Green 28" rabbit fencing - my new favorite thing.  Holes, holes, holes.  The end of the pansies - the pot by the front door has all but died.  It's very sad.  It was splendid. Wheelbarrows - the new one and the old ones that desperately need attention.  Gosh-there is so much that needs doing, it makes me twitchy.

ALMOST PULLETS! Lola going on the war path and getting way beat up.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day to the Planet

Overnight--2/3rd" of rain!  The last few weeks have been unseasonably mild.  Spotted green tips on the lilac outside the front window.  Can't help but flinch/ wince/ too early/ not safe/ don't come out yet!

A bit of good news:
California--they have announced it has emerged from drought conditions.  (Find references?)

Some numbers about spring:
Today - 6:27am to 6:15PM (11hr, 45min)  +2min 1sec from yesterday
Civil Twilight - sun is 6degrees from the horizon.  The brightest of the twilights.  (Nautical is 12degrees, Astronomical is 18degrees) >  https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/different-types-twilight.html

- - - - - - - - -
Non sequitur:
Memorable from yesterday, the NPR story about the woman who sells grief/ condolences greeting cards.  Emily McDowell  Wrote a book with Kelsey Crowe There is No Good Card for This

On what you should say to a sick or grieving loved one
Really, I think it's all about listening. And I think a lot of what we go into in the book is that we operate under the assumption that we need to find the right words, and the good news is that Oprah can't even do that. Nobody can do that. And so you kind of are off the hook in that really all you need to say is, "I'm here," and "I'm thinking about you," and "How are you doing today?" and then let the person talk. ...

On the problem with finding a silver lining instead of allowing someone to be angry or sad
Culturally, we're just not comfortable with a lot of those emotions and anything that I call "death adjacent," where the end could potentially result in death — which is ironic because all of our lives will result in death. That's the one thing we all have in common is that we're all gonna die. So, yeah, we do feel like this sort of internal pressure to come up with a silver lining. And when you are a person who is going through something, that feels like your pain, which is very real, is being minimized.