Getting Ready for Winter

This is a very pretty flower I picked up at Home Depot in late Spring. I wanted it in the vegetable garden because I felt it would attract pollinators. It did. It’s lovely. And, it’s pretty darn hardy. Today I transplanted it out of the garden – which hopefully will get tilled tomorrow – and into planters on the front porch. Here’s the info about this flower – Sunny Day Tickseed – a type of coreopsis. But you wanna know what bugs me about this plant? This little blurb on the plant identifier tag: “Protected by US Patent Laws and/or Canadian Plant Breeder’s Rights. Illegal propagation is prohibited.” Okay – how stupid is that?! I’m sure someone somewhere thinks it’s a good thing to have intellectual property rights to the propagation of this plant – but one has to wonder… what if it accidentally is propagated naturally? Will I be prosecuted? Ugh!

I hope this pictures comes out okay… In the background – see that truly BIG pile of leaves? The boys worked hard today to amass it. They’re planning on building a fort from the raked up leaves. Ummm… today was one of those rare REALLY blustery days here in Oregon. Supposed to be tomorrow, too… This Mom can’t help but wonder if this plan may somehow be, well, difficult to execute fully. 🙂

ALL of the animals are loving the leaves. Pepper likes to roll in them. Jake and Caleb like to curl up in them. The chickens like to scratch through them… And soon, I hope, they will be moved to my compost heap – helping to make wonderful compost for my garden one of these days!

Today John worked hard to finish up pulling up all of the remnants of the garden. The chickens LOVED following behind and scratching through everything.

Wow – it’s that time of year ago – time to start strategizing what next year’s garden will be.

It’s wild how strange it is that we’ve come full circle. No more green beans… This will be my garlic patch – and soon! Thanks to Danni‘s and Melinda‘s examples and excellent information – I will FINALLY – after years of feeling completely inadequate and definitely not smart enough to attempt it – plant my first garlic patch. Woo Hoo! I’ll be sure to report later!

And here is my piled-high compost heap. The girls are investingating – trying to determine if there’s anything worth finding in there.

And here is my new composter. Kinda wild, huh? It’s called Earthmaker – it’s an Aerobic Composter. It involves a three step process – it has three different compartments – see?

Interesting, huh? I like it thus far, and will be sure to give updates as to how effective it is – or is not!

It occurred to me today – Hey! I should harvest the seed from my basil! Why have I never thought of that before? So, I went out with my scissors and a saran wrapped basket (so anything that escapes a seed pod will not be lost between the slats of the basket), and went to work. Here’s a peek. I’ll probably get around to coaxing the seed out of the pods tomorrow – I’ll be sure to report back! But here’s a great resource I found online about harvesting basil seed.

So – it’s true… it’s full force fall with winter on the way. I find it nearly impossible to believe it’s only a week until November. But I think I’m ready for it now. I think the fact that it hasn’t been horribly soggy has helped. I may even be ready for the rain. We’ll see!

Our Rooster Laid an EGG!!!

So we have this neighbor…

Well, I should back up a bit… If you remember Harlan the rooster, you’ll remember the neighbor – you can get the whole story here. Suffice it to say – our neighbor does not approve of roosters.

In the past week I’ve had several alarming mornings… picture this… me, in my nightgown, wearing my muckers (the world’s best shoes for running around a dew-wet yard), a cardigan, my hair all over the place… madly trying to coax my California White chickens out of the neighbor’s (yes THAT neighbor’s) newly seeded lawn. I nearly have a heart attack every time I glance out the bathroom window and see that they’re THERE – AGAIN!

About a week ago the neighbor’s wife came and knocked on the door to let me know our chickens were in her yard and I should come remove them… I, of course, quickly donned shoes and followed her to the sight of them scratching in her yard.

This neighbor and I have never spoken before. It was an interesting conversation. She mentioned casually that she used to raise chickens. She shared some tidbits on the best methods to raise chickens. And then she informed me that one of my California Whites was, in fact, a cockerel – not a pullet and that I should be cautious. I responded that I was pretty sure that it was, in fact, a pullet, not a rooster – we’d already gotten rid of our California White rooster – and that it wasn’t unusual for the pullets to develop more pronounced combs and wattles right before they started laying eggs – just about the age of these chicks. She made certain to let me know that she had no doubts we had a roo on our hands, and that she’d be keeping an eye out.

Today – our “rooster” laid an egg!

Here SHE is… she doesn’t have a name, but since she’s so easily identified visually from her peers now, I suppose we’re going to have to come up with a name for her! Any suggestions?

And here’s her egg. It’s our first white egg! Woo hoo! It was petite – only 1.375 oz – but perfectly beautiful!

How’s that for a display of variety?! The darkest eggs are Millie’s, the lightest of the brown eggs are Henrietta’s, and the medium brown ones are Hallie’s.

Oh – and Jake has found a new favorite place to nap during the day:

Yes, that’s him curled up right underneath the nest boxes. The girls don’t seem to mind him there – and he doesn’t seem to mind them, either. He’s such a goof!

It’ll be interesting to see if he’s allowed to continue to nap there as more and more of the chicks start laying… The middle girls are now of an age where that will begin. I’ll be sure to report!

Wanna see what I found today?

Is that not just one of the most beautiful things you’ve seen of late? Of course it’s only *pretending* to be ripe just yet – but it’s almost there. My mouth is watering in anticipation!

Know what makes it even better? It’s not alone! There are berries nearly as far as the eye can see… just waiting to be kissed by the sun and consumed by me!

Isn’t this just the cutest little banana pepper you’ve ever seen?!

There are more baby squash each day – it won’t be long until I can’t take the wait any longer and I’ll break down and cut a whole bunch of them and race them right into the kitchen to sautee them up.
Do you see that wonderful little pollinator on the right? There are MANY in the garden. It’s so encouraging to see them. We’ve heard so many bad reports about the conditions of bee colonies in the area. I counted perhaps six different types of bees today – not to mention butterflies, and a hummingbird.
Thistles are such a pain! But oh, so lovely! Had to snap a picture of this one before John dug it up.

For the first time since we’ve lived here a little bunch of Queen Anne’s Lace has come up – it has the most delicate blush of pale pink to it. Lovely!

…and the hydrangea is a beautiful blue.

Jake – playing hide and go seek amongst the squash!

And… I still hate weeding, but thanks to Madelyn I’ve found my very favorite weeding tool! Meet Grampa’s Weeder and some other really cool tools at Grampa’s Gardenware.

Yes, still lots of weeds to eliminate from my garden – but I’m making progress, slowly and steadily!

I hate weeds.

Yet, here you can see how very prolifically I grow them.

Late last August (2007) I had a total right hip replacement. Yes, I’m young – 44 years of age. But it was shot, and the old one had to go and the new one had to be “installed” – so to speak. In my hip class my classmates were blown away that I was “one of them.” Can I just say here and how that I have a WORLD of respect for older people who have a total hip replacement. That surgery can really kick your butt. And it’s not just a little recovery – it’s HUGE. Here I am 11 months since that surgery and I’m still adjusting, figuring out how to deal with the hip and my limitations, and finding myself truly shocked when I have a little season of time when my new hip feels “normal” or “natural.”

That all being said – let me just repeat: I hate weeds. A lot. I hated them before my hip replacement. I hate them now. Maybe a little more. Why? Because my knees both need to be replaced, my ankle is being studied for a possibility of being replaced, and I can cause myself a LOT of pain if I use the wrong body mechanics because of my new hip. And guess what – weeding is one of those “wrong” body mechanics. Yes, folks, if you drive past my yard you’ll see me bent over at the waist with my butt in the air pulling weeds. I wish there were some other way to do it – but there isn’t.

So, since it hurts I let them go much more than I ought to. I’m still trying to find a way to have a much less “weedy” garden. I think more mulch is part of it. Sadly, my supply for this year is dwindling and I’m not going to get another load full if it. We really are committed to organic gardening – so we continue to research and do lots of trial and error. I won’t be giving up gardening any time soon – that is for certain. So I’ve got to find some better weeding methodologies!

Isn’t Jake funny?

Cucumber flowers – woo hoo! This photo above are the Straight 8’s. The photo below is a bush cucumber plant. I think the flower on the bush is prettier, don’t you?

I’m so pleased to see how heartily my basil plants have taken off. It’s time to start using it! Pesto here we come!
The green beans are doing it again – nearly exploding with growth in phenomenally short periods of time. Wow! It won’t be long until we have beans!

LOOK! It’s an actual teensy, tiny yellow crookneck squash. It is actually conceivable that I’ll have squash to eat in DAYS – not some indeterminate vague number of days in the future. I find that so exciting!
Here, my friends, is the definition of pathetic:

Poor Pepper – she’s gotta wear a cone right now. She’s in heat and she’s been tearing her hair out – and not gently – her skin is in distress. So we’ve put this contraption on her – much to her chagrin – and we’re hoping she heals up quickly. She will be a very happy camper when the cone comes off!

The week of the rooster!

This is Joe… He’s a young, pretty dumb raccoon that comes often during the daytime hours to hang out on our back porch. Our dog doesn’t seem to mind much – unless the chickens are out free ranging – then she gets hacked off. And – oddly enough, our cats don’t seem to give a rip at all! I personally think Joe’s front right paw is injured. I also think Joe may need to go on a little trip to the woods where he can live somewhere other than suburbia!

Jess took this picture the other day. This is Jake (one of our kittens) realizing his sneaky hiding place to observe the chickens was no secret to anyone and he may as well come out from under the car! He’s such a goof!
Isn’t this the sweetest little flower?
Caleb – hanging out on the top of the chicken run. He loves hanging out and watching the girls do their thing! Now that they’re all so big, he just watches – doesn’t seem to have much interest in having any run ins.

Here’s Harlan – never far from the girls – keeping a close eye on them and everyone else! He takes his job seriously.
Henrietta is by far our most social girl. She is not at all opposed to just hanging out sitting on my lap while we’re out in the yard. She is very intrigued by my air cast, though!
Here they are – playing follow the leader yet again – it’s always a riot, though, when they all end up in the corner and wondering why the heck they are there!
Do you see rooster here? Cause I see rooster here!

Here are the baby girls – out for a field trip to the yard. They seem to enjoy the outdoors quite a bit. They are just about three weeks old.
There is nothing quite so right as a flock of free ranging chickens in your yard, garden, and compost heap!
Our week started – for all intents and purposes – when Harlan (yes, as in Sanders, you know, the KFC founder – yes, that’s what he got named!) the Welsumer Rooster came to stay last Sunday. You’ve never seen such a stunning, sweet-tempered specimen of rooster! We learned in pretty quick order that he’s a right at 4:15 a.m. every morning to rise kind of a guy – and that’s when the crowing would start. Then the rooster a couple of blocks over would answer, then Harlan would answer back… and so on, and so forth…

Suffice it all to stay that the neighbors are not thrilled.
I can’t say as I blame them. While we all in this particular corner of the world are on 1/2 to 3/4th acre plots the house direct to the West of us is the least amused. Today they made it clear that Harlan would no longer be tolerated.
We’re bummed – we really have come to love him. He’s absolutely hilarious to watch, and is quite intelligent – not to mention, of course, beautiful to behold. But we want to be good neighbors, so Harlan will return to Sno-Kit Farm tomorrow – much to our sorrow. We hope that in the near future we will have a home of our own with enough elbow room to welcome him back to our flock. Thank you, Sharon, for sharing Harlan with us for this week!

[Here’s Harlan – sunbathing – BUT – keeping an eye out on his flock! It was hilarious when he’d doze off – startle and awaken, then hop up on his feet and crow for all he was worth to prove his vigilance!]

School is out for the summer. It will be wonderful to have the kids home. I love this time of year!

Pepper, the chicken dog…

I think pretty much most people are aware of the fact that Australian Shepherds are herding dogs. I remember thinking about the time Pepper was three or four months old – as I watched her herd the kids around the yard – that she’d be a happy girl if she could herd some sheep or goats or cows in our yard! Yesterday, it occured to me that Pepper is – in fact – thrilled to be a chicken herder.

After all of the tales of woe I’ve read from folks who’ve had tragic ends when chickens and dogs intersect, I’ve been very cautious about Pepper’s access to the girls.

But Pepper is a very maternal girl. When Jake and Caleb (our cats) came to stay as orphaned 7 week old kittens, she was positive she was their Mom and would lay down, grab one of them between her paws, and then commence with a thorough washing. Funny thing is – now – our nearly 15 pound cats still let her do it! LOL! John mentioned to me that one day he found her doing the same thing to one of the big girls. My worry, of course, being she would think, “YUM!”

Well todayI decided that I’d cautiously observe Pepper’s interactions with now about 12 week old Henrietta, Hallie, and Millie.

As I sat at close proximity I was amazed to observe her quietly follow the girls around the yard. If they were to wander further than she felt comfortable with – she’d gently round them up and head them back closer to me. At one juncture Joe (the young racoon that seems to have adopted our family – horrors) peeked out of the bushes the girls were not terribly distant from – and Pepper tore off after him, barking like crazy. Her hackles didn’t settle down for quite some time afterwards and her watch was extra vigilent.

I have thus concluded: we have ourselves a chicken dog. And a darned good one, too. After a very successful several hours with the big girls, I had her babysit the little chicks (now nearly 5 weeks old) while I was transferring them from the baby pen back to the coop. I originally was going to take them straight from the baby pen to the coop, when one of the chicks that I was carrying managed to escape and start running around willy nilly. I then decided to put the other chick I was carrying into the finished side of the chicken yard, and Pepper then very obligingly plopped herself down on the unfinished side to keep an eye on the youngsters.

She was pretty torn (as you can see from the photo above) by the fact that one chick was out running around by itself, but her duty clearly lay in the growing flock of chicks to her side! She whined a lot! It actually took me quite a while to get that one escapee corralled and back to the coop – much to Pepper’s relief!

The big girls are always looking for duty to bathe in. I’ve put out DE, which they do to a certain extent, use to bathe in. But I could just about heir their sighs of joy when they discovered the dusty driveway! First they dusted, then they basked. They were nearly deliriously happy!

I found it really interesting that they felt no sense of danger from Jake and Caleb today. Both cats are pretty successful hunters – something that I really like about them. We have only seen DEAD rodents since they’ve come to live with us – just the way I like things! And though it pains me to admit it, they catch an occasional bird, too – I could just weep when they do – I love the birds so! So I’ve been quite concerned about interactions between the chicks and the cats.

Jake and Caleb were up on their elevated feeder munching away when the three big girls came their way. They watched the girls, but didn’t seem too interested, to be honest. Eventually Caleb jumped down and quietly went and sat to observe the girls more closely. Pepper sat and watched carefully – and I was prepared to intervene. Henrietta actually got nearly nose to beak with Caleb, and it was then that I realized, “The girls are taller than the cats now!” Henrietta – nearly simultaneous to that thought – reached out to peck at Caleb, who in turn made a bit of an injured pride squack, and hightailed it out of there! Wild! While I won’t relax my vigilence with them, I’m a little bit pleased that the girls – thus far – can hold their own with the cats.

I have to say, though, that today was tonic to my soul. Spring has definitely sprung – now if only it will warm up enough to actually stay! The lovely iris are beginning to bloom, and my peas are as well.


I love this time of year!

The little girls are getting so big! When Jessica’s friend came out to see them she exclaimed that they were huge. We’ve named two of them already, this one is speedy(right), she’s so tiny. Most of the other chicks are twice her size. The other one that we’ve named is Shelly.
The big girls love to go outside. It’s so funny, you just open their little door and they hop right out. However, when it’s time to go back inside they are super hard to catch. We;ve had a few close encounters wher they’ve wandered too close to Jake or Caleb (our cats) but so far they’ve come out just fine. We all can not wait for their yard to be built it’s going to be so nice. Hopefully John will finish that this weekend. 🙂

This is such a cute picture i just had to post it. It looks like the cover of a movie lol.

They’re HUGE!

Sometimes we come into the pantry to check on the girls first thing in the morning and the first thing that pops out of our mouths is, “Good grief! They’ve doubled in size again!”

Our girls don’t look so much like chicks any more, they are looking more and more like little chickens.

All four girls routinely fly up to the side of the brooder now. Henrietta has recently taken to flying up to the backs of the chairs that we have the pole that the heat lamp hangs from. Sometimes the girls will roost on the side of the brooder and then one by one they’ll doze off, and someone will forget where she is and – whammo! – sthe’s fallen off the side and onto the table. It can be pretty funny to watch them teetering, fighting sleep, trying to keep their balance. Reminds me of when the kids were little and we’d be riding in the car and they’d be fighting sleep. 🙂

All of the girls now *love* to perch on people arms, shoulders, and will occasionally try to fly up and be on top of someone’s head. They are completely comical when they will try and “unseat” whomever might happen to be in “line” ahead of them. It’s something like watching chicken bumper cars! LOL!

We’ve had several instances of one or two of the girls bumping each other off of the edge of the brooder, even – both ending up flying down to the floor in a last ditch effort to avoid crashing and burning! There have been a couple of times when Pepper has been watching intently – and you can just see the desire in her eyes to take just a little bite! It’s not at all unusual for her to sit on the floor adjacent to the table that holds the brooder and just whine away while the girls perch. Thus far Pepper has avoided trying to get up on the table, Jake and Caleb have even mellowed out about it. I think everyone is finally getting used to each other!

They’re getting bolder!

It’s absolutely amazing to me how much these chicks change – nearly hourly! When they first came home I thought we’d have enough chick starter to last a lifetime! Of course, that was back in the day that it took them slightly more than 24 hours to go through a quart of the stuff. Now – they go through at least two quarts in 24 hours – sometimes more!

[Henrietta and Hallie perched.]

It’s fascinating to watch their feather development. It’s so interesting how one area will start to feather out, and then over the course of a day or two flush out to full blown feathers – not just little nubbins with fuzz at the end! Henrietta seems to be the leader of the pack in terms of development – and boldness! Hallie is next, I think. Although Millie seems to be the first with feathers on the back of her head thinking about coming out. Little Bit is still the smallest – but probably the spunkiest. All but Millie – until just this morning – had made the journey of flying up to the edge of the brooder. I was actually typing this post when I heard – clear from the other end of the house! – a chick squaking for all she was worth. I was convinced a cat had made it indoors without my knowing about it and tore off for the other end of the house. What should I find? Millie perched on the side of the brooder – squaking off about her accoplishment. I hadn’t realized before just this morning that a small chicken was capable of palpable pride – but apparently they are!

I continue to go out to the garden or compost pile and bring in worms every few days. It’s – admittedly – SO entertaining watching the girls carry on about them. Little Bit – for being a small little chick – can gobble down a herking huge worm!

We’ve had a couple of pretty funny incidents in the past couple of days with Henrietta convinced she should fly further afield than we thought she was capable of. One day Jessica was out in the pantry watching the chicks – Jake (one of the cats) was lazing around – watching for his opportunity to get a tasty chick snack, and Pepper (the dog) was looking on. Henrietta was perched on the side of the brooder and decided to fly down and land on Jake! Jake – my mouser! Luckily Jessica was at hand and quickly retrieved Henrietta before Jake could even react. Phew! We have gone to great lengths to make certain that the cats ARE NOT given access to the pantry unless someone is in there to observe and possibly intervene!

John has drawn up the preliminary plan for the coop. It looks amazing. He’s so gifted! We will try and begin construction this week. The weather doesn’t look too promising, but the girls are growing so big it is blaringly apparent that time is of the essence!

Day Three

Henrietta is a bold girl. She’s bigger than the others, she’s bossier than the others – she seems to be a leader. What Henrietta does, the others attempt.
The above picture shows Henrietta’s accomplishment for the day. She started trying to reach the top edge of the brooder box (34 x 18 x 15) first thing this morning. By 10:00 am she’d figured it out. Wow. I wonder what the coming days will hold!
The girls continue to be pretty much ravenous. They’ve been through a quart sized canning jar full of feed today. They seem to eat, poop, eat, poop, nap, poop, eat, nap, poop, and then eat some more. LOL! In between they take turns trying to figure out how to get on top of the feeder and waterer (with Henrietta trying to get to the edge of the brooder once she’s made it to the top of the feeder).
I’ve noticed that our tiniest chick seems to be pretty aggressive – she’s started walking on/over the others when they’re in her way, and will see one of the others settled down for a nap and will go over and plop herself right on top. She’s pretty comical!
We’ve had to keep a close eye on the cats today. The picture below pretty much says it all! This is Caleb – on his hind legs, extended up to hold onto the table and peer up at the chicks through the clear storage bin that we are using for a brooder. Desire is clearly written all over his face!
Jake (our other kitten, and Caleb’s brother and littermate) had his first exposure to the chicks today – and in his usual fashion, was far more aggressive in his approach – he just launched from surface to surface until he was on the table next to the bin and planning (swiftly) how to get in there and get his morning snack! He learned quickly that the chicks are NOT his to play with, no matter how much he might long for them to be so!
We just can’t believe how quickly the chicks are growing. They seem to be exponentially getting bigger – can it be hourly? I suppose it must be, but wow – it’s one thing to know it in theory and another to see it before your very eyes! What an amazing thing to behold!
I’m dying to know exactly how old they are. It seems that their wing development is really moving forward. And I’d read somewhere about little tufts of chick fluff starting to float about at some point of development – I’ve got to find that reference – and that was seen a little bit today. I’m sure it was Henrietta – she’s larger, and seemingly more developed than the others.
Another fun day in the life of backyard chicken wranglers! We’re enjoying quite a lot of time just standing by the brooder and watching. Funny how fun that simple activity can be!
Looking forward to what the coming days will bring – I think!