Thursday, September 15, 2016

It Looks Like Fall While I Rake Hay

We have three new chicks, hatched right here at home, under one of the pretty orange buff Orpington hens!  This buff mamma was determined to make her nest in the nest box in the coop, which meant that the other hens squeezed in the box with her every day and laid their eggs beside her.  Each day I had to move the moody hen off the eggs, pick out the unmarked ones, and leave the ten eggs I marked with a permanent marker for her to keep warm.  Some days she would have so many eggs beneath her that the marked ones would be near the edge of her body, and I worried that they were ruined.  Some of her eggs were broken, most likely due to tussles for space with other hens, and she didn't always seem to understand that the eggs were supposed to be under her body, so I was surprised that she was able to get any to hatch at all.  She did pretty good for her first time.   

When I tried to take a picture of the chicks yesterday, she charged me with wings spread wide, and all I got was this picture of her feathers with a tiny black chick running for cover behind her.  I'm glad to know she has a strong motherly instinct to protect her chicks.  Now that I have two hens willing to go broody, I know it won't be long before the flock returns to the pre-fox attack numbers.  

Our schedules have been more than full lately.  Brandon's teaching and university involvement is in full swing, and he is displaying his art in simultaneous shows, which is always challenging.  He gets home late nearly every day, but still found time to mow some of our overgrown fields.  It's hard to tell in the photo above, but I raked this field by hand, to fluff the cut grass so it would dry for hay.  By the time I was done, my shoulder muscles were burning. What do ya know, I have shoulder muscles!  

I've been involved in some intense field work for my job, the kind that involves hiking in steep terrain, while trying, in vain, to defend against the thousands (I'm not exaggerating) of seed ticks that were impossible to avoid.  I'm itchy because of the many tick bites, although I didn't get feasted on as hard as some of my coworkers.  One of the guys I was working with got a spider bite on his cheek!  It's the kind of work that I normally enjoy - challenging physically and mentally, as the topography is steep and we must use maps and GPS devises to navigate.  Unfortunately, the heat and the ticks made it hard to appreciate the views and the wildlife.   

After work yesterday, I took care of my normal outdoor chores - cleaning and refilling water buckets, adding some fresh bedding to the chicken coops, pool maintenance, visiting with my animal friends, and gazing at the garden.  The garden needs more attention than gazing, but I just ate green beans and tomatoes off the vine, and picked the tiny melons that were buried in the weeds.  

The sun was low in the sky, and I was so tempted to retreat to the cool interior of the house, and do something novel, like cook a real meal, but I also wanted to bring in the hay that I had taken the time to rake into little fluffy mounds the day before.  With Rufus overseeing the process from his fence, and Wendigo getting in the way helping, it wasn't long before we had raked all the hay onto a big tarp, and pulled the giant bundle to the barn.  Do you think Rufus was so interested in this chore because he looks forward to eating all that hay this winter?

The garden looks like fall.  Oranges and reds and purples.  Even the green beans are pretty bunches of dangling purple pods.  

She sunflowers have turned brown, and their heads are nodding.  Little birds feast on the sunflower seeds.  

The giant mound of dirt that was generated by the pool excavation now supports a nice stand of grain sorghum.  The buckwheat plants are dying back.  One giant sunflower stands at the top of the mound. 

The head on this sunflower is nearly a foot and half across, and because the plant is growing from the top of the mound, it seems like the tallest sunflower plant in the world!

After raking hay and admiring the grain crops, Puck and I went inside, only to find a tiny little snake under the dining room table!  I believe it is a eastern milk snake, or maybe a baby black rat snake.  It was small enough that I think it could have come under the back door, which has a good sized gap.  It was a pretty little snake, and let me hold it and take it's picture before I put it outside again.  I told Brandon there was a snake in the house, and this morning he said he only woke up once in the night to find himself searching for snakes in the bed while he was sleep walking.  Just once? Not bad!

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