Friday, November 1, 2013

A New Twist on "Gardening"

This summer I've been working on inviting native bees to my garden. 
We are enjoying unseasonably dry and warmer temperatures than is the norm for fall. This is what passes for a drought here. A month at a time without rain. Although I normally spend September cleaning up the garden and canning or freezing the stragglers, this year I am working outside straight through October. There has been no frost and not enough rain to keep me inside which means some canning is on hold and my house is suffering immensely. After all, rain is the gardener's excuse to clean house. That brings me to the fall garden. I have been working on putting in raised beds because I have just had it with fighting the sandy soil that wont hold ANY water. What a difference. I planted carrots and beets (yes we love beets) and they are growing like crazy. I also as of October 15th got all three varieties of my garlic in. The raised beds are so easy to weed and maintain and they hold moisture.

Got another good crop of potatoes this year although not as good as last year. I have to chock that up to the fact that I didn't get them planted in a timely fashion.
Yukon Gold, German Butterball, Cherokee Red, and a Russet.

This also brings me to the cold frame. Now that my neighbor cut down all his trees to put in a horse arena, my cold frame and grapes get tons of sun. Yep. I actually harvested bags of sweet grapes. So it was time to clean out the cold frame a few days ago and replant some spinach. I needed to enlist some help from a friend that is really good at spotting what looks like cut worms.

Yummy! Lunch!
She also likes taking a nap in the warm sun.

Will finish with pictures of what has been happening around here since spring. I also want to thank you all for sticking with me while I went through my writers block. I can't guarantee I will be much better but with the advent of colder weather maybe, just maybe I will find something interesting to write about.

Out of 15 baby geese we kept two, one died (see previous post) and we sold the rest. However I wont be doing that again. There are too many bird factories churning out unusual birds for people that think they want them.

Our youngest graduated from high school in June and will
be in her second year this fall at the junior college thanks to
Running Start.

I got 5 Lavender Orpington chicks in July. This is a picture
in September. 

We were finally able to remodel the deck that has been rotting
off the house (read dangerous to walk on) since we bought
the house. I am really pleased with it. 
In addition I have finally started renovating the landscaping in the front yard however that is going to have to wait until spring now. I have coop winterizing to do. Then on to the indoor projects.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Because Izzy asked

I know it has been some time since I have published anything. April to be exact. I could say I just got busy and that would be true. But the truth is I was struggling with a lack of desire to garden or do anything else on this small "farm". As a result almost everything in the garden got planted late. Potatoes, peas, onions, pumpkins, zucchini, you name it. Except the corn. I managed to start that in pots and transfer it to prepared beds and that worked great.  My good friend K asked me if I was perhaps depressed and I guess I was/am. More so then than now. I also felt like blogging was just a waste of what little time and ambition I was able to muster. I hate the feeling that I am pushing off my stories onto friends and family. I have had not one person ask why I am not blogging so I think it must be true. Except Izzy. So Izzy, this one's for you.

Most of you know we had 18 Sebastopol goslings hatch this last spring. All four adults were perfect parents, there was tons of excitement, and the babies all healthy........except one. It became evident that one of the babies was not able to quite keep up with the rest. She would try but would soon just give up and sit down panting and it was apparent that her little heart was having a hard time keeping up with her. Sometimes I would walk out to where she was sitting and carry her to her family so she wasn't alone. She soon ended up in the house with us and my daughter named her Holly Go Lightly after the character in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Holly for short. I knew she couldn't possibly live very long and actually expected her to not last more than a couple weeks but I was determined to give her a happy life while she was here.

Holly had the best personality perhaps because she was raised with more human interaction. She gave great goose hugs and could talk up a storm and would call to us from her box in the bathroom that was in the laundry/mudroom just outside the kitchen door. Of course once she got someone's attention she would beg to be let out of that box. As a result we ended up carrying her around in a baby sling fashioned from a long scarf tied around our necks or watching TV at night snuggled up in someones lap. Even the man was pressed into babysitting. Nestled in a big towel Holly would watch the news with him on the computer. Sometimes she was allowed to wander around the kitchen but she didn't like the dogs much so that didn't happen as much as she would have liked. During the day after it warmed up and the grass dried off I would take her out to be with her family. I also made sure she was always fed separately and would hand pick dandelion leaves for her. She loved those. Being the smallest she was pushed away from the communal food.

To make a long story short Holly became my baby. Always looking for me to come out in the yard and telling me when she was ready for breakfast or dinner.  It took her longer to grow up. She was late getting feathers, didn't try swimming for a good month plus after her siblings and had to put up with some bullying but handled it pretty well. She had a favorite brother that she would cuddle with and follow around too. Here are pictures. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words.
For awhile the other babies had to take turns keeping Holly
company in the house. 

Holly riding around in her scarf. 

The family at play
He was her favorite sleeping partner

Holly loved her brother and he didn't seem to mind

Holly is the little yellow one. What a difference. 

Holly admiring herself in the mirror....

and yelling for company from her bathroom basket.
This always got my attention. 

Holly was a happy little thing and made me smile every day. Her siblings grew so fast, became beautiful fully feathered beauties that were sold to good homes. Holly was never going to another home. It was still evident that she had a defective heart and I couldn't have sold her in good conscience nor did I want to. She did eventually get her beautiful feathers although not as many as her siblings and I could tell the effort of growing was taking its toll on her. One day in July Holly asked to be put in the chicken coop. This was usually her way of asking for her dinner and it was late afternoon. We had been out in the yard working all day so I fed and watered her and went in to take a shower and start dinner. When I came back out less than an hour later Holly had died. She was 3 1/2 months old and had lived much longer than I thought she would however I was still devastated. I still miss her funny little self around here.

But life goes on. We have added 5 Lavender Orpington chicks to our flock and after my late start in the garden I have been a woman on a mission. I have been putting in raised beds for vegetables (I got sick of fighting our sandy soil) and renovating the landscaping around the house. Right now the man and I are replacing the rotting decks (plural) on our house and I am harvesting and canning out of the garden. Our weather has been unseasonably hot and dry this summer so I am actually getting red tomatoes! and corn! The new lavenders are sweet as can be and growing fast. We will see how they do with the rest of the flock.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lessons Learned from Geese?

It's Sunday and so far there is no movement from the last 3 eggs in the goose nest which means we have 15 goslings divided between two nest. The boys had not left the gate all day yesterday and last night when I let them into the pen I stood and watched to make sure all would be well. I've done the goose thing before so I didn't expect any trouble from them and I was right.

They immediately went to the nest to check it out. Both girls stood up straddling the goslings tucked in their cozy nests. The boys stuck their heads in to check out those babies and actually pushed some of the babies further under the moms. When the moms finally settled back down one gander snugged up to the outside of one nest while the other stood guard in front. They stayed that way all night.

 Morning came and unfortunately I needed to check on the remaining eggs and knowing I would have to argue that point with the boys I took my mini leaf rake and broom with a half handle into the run with me to coax them both out the gate.  The guard gander immediately started protesting while the other attempted to climb into the nest with the babies. I had to literally lift him off with the plastic leaf rake and move them both out through the gate.

The moms were fine with me messing around but much to my disappointment the last three eggs were still intact. Mom on the right seemed to be having a harder time covering her babies which may be why daddy was in there so I moved two over to the other nest.

The great thing about these guys is that they seem to be practicing cooperative parenting. They also did this last year when the eggs were not fertile. Last year I only had one nest with one sitter but when she got off the other mom got on and kept them warm. When mom #1 came back the other would get off and stand guard with the boys until she was needed again.

This year I only saw one gander breeding with one goose. That was Alphy and Mimi. Sebastian and Bella just seemed to hang around lending assistance and support. Apparently the alphas are the breeders with this breed.  When Mimi was ready to sit on 19 eggs I divided them into the two nest boxes and both geese started sitting even though I am pretty sure Bella had not contributed many if any to the nest. I removed 1 egg a few days later because there was no growth when I candled them.

My point is this family group of geese seem to be raising these babies together. So far there is no fighting. All four seem to have only one purpose and that is to raise these babies.

Earlier today just before I was heading out to a neighborhood meeting I went to check on them one more time. All the parents were in one nest box! My first thought was cold half dead babies so taking my life in my hands I entered the run and physically carried each male out the gate one at a time so I could see what was going on without getting eaten. They didn't like it but they also didn't bite me. Dressed in my Sunday go to (neighborhood) meeting clothes I crawled into the empty nest box to rescue the orphaned babies. NO BABIES! What the heck! All the babies and both moms were in the next box over. Now I don't think geese pick their babies up like kittens and these guys aren't old enough yet to have their running legs so the only thing I can think of is that the boys pushed them there so the whole family unit could be together. Never seen anything like that before but everyone of them were in that box. I quickly readjusted the empty nest to be deeper and wider and added straw around the edges to create a deep berm, added half the babies to it and got a mom over there. That lasted about 6 hours when I let the boys back in and went in to start dinner.

Those boys are determined to keep the family together so I give up. They must know what they are doing. The girls are both in one nest with all the babies and the boys are the front guys. Again.

Then some of the babes decided to go out and meet daddy. 

Guess that answers the question as to how they all got in the same nest. 

Lessons learned from Geese?

Leave them alone. They know more about family and cooperation than most humans. 

Friday, April 5, 2013


CAN YOU TELL I'M EXCITED!!!! Earlier today when I got these girls off the nests for their bath and to get a drink I checked the eggs. One looked like it MIGHT have a crack but other than that things were pretty quiet. It is 7 pm and I just checked again. This time I didn't make the moms leave and go out to the pasture. I just moved them off the nest while I checked so I was eyeball to eyeball with a mom that was giving me the "what the f... do you think you are doing" hairy eyeball. I am always surprised at how calm these girls are with me. So while mom was staring at me I started picking up each egg and OMG! Cracks and holes and peeps! OH MY! I kept hearing a really loud one but couldn't figure out where it was coming from. So I moved over to the next nest (on the right) got moma off and started to look. As soon as I did an egg started screaming at me! Has to be one of Mimi's because she is a screamer too. That's why the name. Screaming Mimi. The man named her. So while moms are staring at me but being calm the boys are at the gate wanting to rip me a new one. Literally.

 They have spent most of their time sitting by the gate waiting, or, when I do get the girls off for their daily bath and drink they run up and down the outside of the fence screaming at them. Get back on! Get back on! You're killing my babies! This is why we don't let ganders' into the delivery room. So we should have babies tomorrow.

You may wonder why I am so excited. Metzer farms where I bought these lovelies said this on their web site;
Fertility seems to be a problem with most Sebastopols, along with lower than normal egg production. Fertility is adequate early in the season (and they do seem to come into production earlier than most breeds) but quickly drops off. Oftentimes we will have no fertile eggs the last three weeks of production in the spring. In 2005 we tried artificial insemination with our Sebastopol but with discouraging results. We hope to try it again in the future but with some basic changes in our methods and materials

  and last year all the eggs were a big fat ZERO so I was not expecting anything this year. In fact both girls together only laid a total of 22 eggs. Three went in the fridge for easter and one was not fertil so I tossed it after candling. The remaining 18 eggs were full of baby so pessimistic me was just wondering how many would die in the egg. I can't wait to tell John Metzer. Maybe he needs a few tips! hahaha

I will keep you up to date when they get here. If they get here. So far they sound really robust. Here's a shout out to Chuck. You're gonna be a grampa!

Sebastapols and ducks at Metzer Farms

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Unintentional Farmer

What Are You Doing In There?
This was the year I wasn't going to get new babies. No chickens, no ducks, and the geese are suppose to be difficult to get goslings from. Well I have a silkie sitting on 4 duck eggs (to go to someone else) and the geese laid a total of 22 eggs three of which are in the fridge waiting to become blown out Easter eggs the rest are sitting under the two moms. They have been setting since the  beginning of March and of course I didn't mark it down since I assumed that like last year it would come to naught. My plan was to let them set for awhile then candle the eggs just to make sure and then toss them. Today I was able to candle the eggs while the moms were out stretching their legs and taking a bath. I think I am going to have to re-think that no baby plan. Out of 19 eggs 18 seem to be well on the way to being babies. The one egg that looked, well, like an egg was just that. I cracked it open and tossed it in the garbage.

I have 4 Sebastapol geese. Two ganders and two geese. The funny part is that only one gander has mated with the one female but both females are sitting on the eggs. They seem to be getting along but I had the man build two separate nest boxes for them with a wall between so they can't see each other. However the four of them talk to each other constantly. I call them the screecher creatures. I gave the non-laying goose 9 of the eggs and they are both being very good moms.
So good in fact that when neither of them had been off the nest for food or water for 4 or 5 days I finally went in and picked them up off the nest setting them near a food and water dish. They were absolutely joyful about the reprieve. They were also a little wobbly on their feet so after a good drink and a short bath they both got back on the nest. Guess I will have to do this every day.

The boys are also working in tandem. Both of them guarding those girls. My family has dubbed them "the evil geese" but they really aren't that bad with me. Compared to other breeds of geese that I have had these guys are a piece of cake. They can be pretty scary though when you don't know them and that is the point after all.  Here they are hissing at me through the fence. I am inside with the girls and they don't like that at all!

Will keep you updated on our progress.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Finished Enough? Bathroom Update.

It is mostly finished or maybe what you call finished enough for now like most of our projects. I am having a heck of a time finding just the right mirror or at least framing for a mirror so we are temporarily using one from the hall.  If anyone out there has an idea where to find a really large, affordable  (approximately  54 X 36 inch) frame molding let me know. So far frame shops are somewhere between $400 and $800 for just the molding. Mirror Mate is much more affordable but limited in what they carry. We were going to try to make a frame but didn't like anything we came up with.

I am also trying to decide on a roller shade for the window. Smith and Noble has good looking roller shades for the window but kind of spendy too and the man and I can't agree on what looks good. I will probably end up buying a plain fabric shade and making a valence that I can change when I get the urge as I so often do.

The bead board and cabinets are glacier white and the top half  of the walls are Ivory Tusk paint from  Clark and Kensington paint, an Ace Hardware Brand. Really nice paint but also spendy. However it did cover in one coat and spatters were minimal. Apparently this paint also got kudos from consumer reports too.
This is actually white. 

We used white subway tile in the shower with a decorative border and a high quality white shower pan on the floor. Then we had Dennis Meszaro,  Meszaros Glass Studio put in the glass door and panel. He did a great job and even though our wall was 1/4 inch off he was able to compensate for that giving us the clean look we wanted.

One of the best things about this bathroom is the new American Standard  toilet. No more trying to clean all those curvy pipe like things on the bottom that catch every piece of dirt and crud that floats by. The profile is simple and clean and it flushes like a dream without any extra help. Call me weird but I love it when things work the way they are suppose to.

We have two stained glass windows that came out of a garden trellis in the front yard. The trellis was rotting into oblivion and we really wanted to save the glass. I would like to hang or display them on the wall above the tub after we refinish them but we will see about that. In the mean time here are pictures. The bathroom is more than usable and I love the colors. Being neutral will let me change colors with the seasons with the addition of towels and rugs.

Click on the pictures to see more detail.