Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thanks, Tom Thanks

Do you remember the beautiful black and white turkey that showed up on Brandon's birthday, back in April?  Well, Tom Thanks, as we named him, adopted us, and made his home with the chickens, but wouldn't go in the coop to sleep, which worried me.  It turns out that my worries were not unfounded, and something caught Tom one night not long after he appeared.  Whatever it was, only ate his head and neck, and left most of his body for us to find.  Poor Tom Thanks was buried in the the garden.  Can you see how pale this patch of corn and buckwheat is in the front of the photo, but how much taller and deeper green it is in the back, near the chair?  

The difference in the tall dark green plants on the left, and the scrawny pale plants on the right is Tom Thanks!  Tom made great fertilizer.  When our good neighbor stopped by to bring us heaps of cucumbers and summer squash from his garden, I bragged about how much better the garden was growing where Tom was buried.  Last night, the neighbor came by again with some fresh caught bass fillets for us, and a giant bag of fish heads and spines.  For me?!? Thank you!  I buried them in the pumpkin patch, and I can't wait to find out if we get a monster pumpkin from it.   

The pumpkin vines are starting to creep beyond the garden bed, and if I peel back the giant pumpkin leaves, I find pretty yellow flowers hidden underneath.   

Is this a tiny pumpkin?!

The Zinnia's I planted near the garden gate are about to bloom.  This garden could use some big blooms.  The shaggy grass between the garden beds sort of disguises the garden to those who don't readily distinguish individual plants when looking at a field of green.  I heard Brandon say that our garden doesn't have anything in it!  What?!  It is the wildest garden I've ever had, but also the biggest and the easiest.  I'm sure over time I'll tighten the reins, clean up the edges, and focus more on production, but this year, while we have so many new homestead adventures keeping us busy, I've enjoyed just putting out seeds when and where I can, and observing what happens with the little maintenance I give it.    

The peas that my nieces planted late in the garden haven't flourished, but they haven't died either.  Pea flowers at the end of July?! Crazy, right?  

It won't be long before the sunflowers put on a show.  The plants seem a little pale, and short, but considering they were planted in soil that is practically pure clay that turns to hard cracking bricks when it's dry, I'm very proud of their progress.  They were thinned and weeded once early on, and half of them got a thin mulch of chicken coop bedding.  They are growing faster than the bugs can eat them, which is all I can ask for.  

Holy beans, Batman!  I'm not sure the beans are going to win the race against the bugs - they seem to be more hole than not.

This garden is tickly.  As my niece pointed out after we planted bean seeds amidst the corn and sunflowers, the grass on the borders is itchy on the ankles.  So far I haven't gotten any bug bites though, so I'm trying to embrace the tickle.  The carpeted paths between the beds are nice, although they won't be there much longer if I expand like I want for a fall garden.  When I see the grass starting to make seeds, I use my big garden shears to give it a hair cut and let the trimmings fall into the rows.  This garden grows it's own mulch!  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ready, Set, Wink

Hey Wendigo, can I take your picture? 

Sit.  Stay...  Good job!  Now everybody look at me and say Cheeeeeese.  Puck - look this way!  Doh! Never mind.






Tuesday, July 26, 2016

With the Kids

A friend and coworker of mine keeps his horses just down the road from our house.  I've never been to visit his horses before, but when I found out our nieces and nephew were coming for a visit, I asked if it would be okay for us to bring apples for them.  I imagined we would stay safely on the opposite side of the fence and hand the apples slices through to the eager horses.  

The horses did not cooperate, and wouldn't approach the fence for a bunch of strangers in floppy hats.  We weren't defeated though, and bravely hopped the gate and approached the horses with our apple offerings.  Horses are big, and nieces and nephews look quite small once they are mingling with three strange horses in close proximity!

I tried not to show my fear of accidental trampling or intentional biting, and the kids didn't seem to have much fear to suppress.  The big male horse was greedy, and didn't want to share any apple slices with the other two.  He even tried to take the whole pail of apples with his teeth!  We tried to keep him pacified by stuffing apples in his mouth as fast as we could.  Once the apples were gone two of the horses wandered off, but the big male horse tried for a majestic departure by turning fast on his back feet and galloping away.  He sort of ruined the majestic effect though, because he farted really loud as he leaped away.  Ha!  We laughed the whole way home.  

It was an action packed day, starting with hot dogs and sprinklers, and followed by picking blackberries.  The wild blackberries the grow on the farm are small and tart, but with all of us picking there was enough for a cobbler.  It feels like summer with blackberry cobbler.  

We even braved the heat to plant some beans among the corn and sunflower plants in the garden.  

I don't usually bring any toys or actually climb into the coop when I get the eggs, but maybe I should because it seemed great fun!  This stupid sock creature was found by my elder niece in it's unfinished state, so we escaped the heat to finish it's lips and add some eyes and earrings.  I owe the younger niece a sock creature now, and she's not likely to let me forget!

We got to sit out an intense thunderstorm while we sewed, and after the storm we had a perfect rainbow!

The sunset after a storm is always spectacular too.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Chicken Imprisonment

The good news is that the fox hasn't eaten any more of the flock since we lost the original seven birds.  Whew.  And, I've been able to go in the house or to work without fear that I would come back out to find another massacre.  The bad news is that we have resorted to imprisoning the flock behind an electric poultry fence.  I miss having them around me when I'm outside.  I also don't like that my flock is now dependent on the grid.  My chickens are burning coal!

Joe had a couple of spare fences that needed some patching that he let us buy at a discount.  We now have two hundred feet of movable electrified fence that we can arrange around the mobile coop.  The short posts are attached to the fence and have pointy stakes on the bottom that can be pushed into the ground by foot.  With two people, it's possible to unroll the fence and place the posts fairly easily.   At least as easily as you imagine it would be to wrestle a bundle of tangled fencing wrapped around sharp stakes while you sweat in the hot sun and curse the rocks under the shallow soil.  Stupid fox.

Until we get a solar fence charger, we are limited to the length of an extension cord for our fence location.  Joe lent us a powerful fence charger, but after seeing the amount of current it was producing on the fence tester, we decided to use the much less powerful, but also less painful, tiny fence charger that my parents used to use on a single wire around their garden.  The charge barely registers on the fence tester, but we know it works because Wendigo learned not to chew on the fence.  For some reason she had to learn it about three times in a row, but eventually she got the message.  Hopefully the fox learned it more quickly.  

The chickens were not happy about their loss of freedom for the first few days.  I could tell because I only got three eggs, and they were in weird locations in the grass.  But now everyone seems to have settled in okay, and the eggs are rolling in just like before.  With a small flock of twenty-one, we've been able to leave them in one place for over a week before the grass starts to look worn down.  It's been so hot that they spend the sunny part of the day in the shade of the coop, and forage around in the mornings and evenings.  The guineas fly out of the fence at will, but can't seem to figure out how to get back in without me holding the fence open for them in the evening while they cry and stare desperately at the coop.  Wendigo is working on her herding skills as she helps me gently lead the guineas to the open fence.  Sometimes it's a fiasco and we end up with guineas in the trees and on the roofs.  Thanks, Wendi!  

The four chicks are small enough that they just walk through the fence, and sometimes the mamma hen figures out how to get over the fence to be with them.  Everyone wants back in at night though, so I lock the coop door and turn the fence off.  

I saw the fox dart into the bushes while I was driving home yesterday.  It's a much more beautiful animal when it's not chomping on one of my hens.  It has big pointy ears like Puck, and it's tail is bushy with a lighter color fur at the tip.  It's slender too, like it could really use a chicken dinner!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Who Had A Bath?

I only feel a little bad for laughing at poor Windigo when her hair was plastered down after her first bath.  Ha!  Even her tail looks funny!

It's good to keep your eyes closed when your getting your hair washed, even if the shampoo is tear free.  

Awww... baths are no fun.  

But getting to wrestle the towel while being dried is great fun!

She was so clean and fluffy after her bath.  It lasted for about ten minutes.  Who's got pretty white eyelashes?  Who does?    

It's a good thing cats can't roll their eyes.  I get the feeling she thinks we're ridiculous when it comes to this puppy.  

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Everybody Loves Watermelon

Sometimes I can see the big dog inside the little puppy.  

Did you know puppies like watermelon?  They don't like it as much as chickens do.  Having a half of a watermelon in the yard is good entertainment.  

It's like watching animals around the watering hole while on safari, right?  I imagine it is a little less thrilling, but I'm easily entertained.

Once the dogs were finished tasting, the chickens got serious about eating.  

They worked on eating the watermelon for two days.  Even the little chicks spent time perched on the rind pecking away.  When a big chicken would wander over for a nibble, the chicks would scatter and wait until the watermelon was unattended before coming back for seconds.  

By the end of the first day, the watermelon was half eaten.  The chickens didn't seem to mind that the rain filled the rind.  What's a little more water in a watermelon?  I'm sure they just thought it was extra hydrating that way - watermelon soup.

By the end of the weekend, there wasn't a bite left.  They didn't waste a drop!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Hungry Horn in the Garden

Wendigo is growing so fast.  It seems like an inch per day, at least.  When we first got her she barely had any teeth poking through her gums, and now she has pearly whites.  Her tail is twice as long, in just two weeks!  I'm not sure how much her fur will change, but right now, it doesn't shed, and she dries in minutes after she gets wet.  It must be very warm though, because she does not like to be in the sun on these hot days, and spends most of her time sleeping in the shade.  And growing!

Wendi and I were out inspecting the garden, when I realized something had eaten parts of three of the tomato plants.  One of them had been trimmed to half it's leaves!

Whatever it was even munched on the green tomatoes!  Ack!  I couldn't find any tracks in the mud, or any holes in the fence.  I was beginning to think it must have been a nimble deer who jumped the fence to munch the plants when I spotted the culprit.  

There it is!  See it, it's a giant green tobacco horn worm.  How could just a single worm do so much damage before I noticed?!  As I watched, it stuffed it's face with tomato leaves (I could hear it munching!) and added a manure pellet to a big mound of worm manure under it's body.  Oh no, it's got to go! 

I hesitated to kill it though, because it was such a neat looking worm.  And so big I felt like I could look it in the eye.  

When I looked closer at it's face and six little pointy arms, it reminded me of the predator from the movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Scary.  

I asked google about it, and found out that the adult is a nice looking brown and gold moth.  Since this worm has seven white stripes outlined with black, it's called a tobacco horn worm instead of the tomato horn worm, although they both like plants in the tobacco and tomato family.  

Look at all those neat fake eye spots along it's sides.  They look like tiny human eyes.  And the horn is actually on it's rear end, not it's head, which is misleading.  Tricky worm.  I decided I didn't want it's voracious descendants to visit my garden either, so he went in the bucket of sudsy water that I use to drown Japanese beetles plucked from the fruit trees.  Google said horn worms can be toxic if eaten, so I didn't offer it to the chickens.    

If you are like Brandon, when you look at the garden you will see only tall grass edges and ugly old carpet.  But, if you can get past those eyesores, you might notice there are things growing in there.  Like little corn plants.  

And pumpkins!

Lot's of sunflowers.  They turn their faces to the sun, so depending on the time of day, they are facing different directions. 

I didn't thin all of the rows right away, and I think the crowded ones have more bug holes than those with a little wiggle room.  

These little black bugs (scarabs?) may be the culprits.  I noticed lots of giant red ants running patrols on the sunflowers, so I haven't interfered.   Hopefully the ants are on my side.  

Amidst the overgrown potato and onion patch, are these long melon vines.  The yellow flowers open in the morning, and are closed tight by the evening.  How does your garden grow?
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