Saturday, September 20, 2008

Good news!

Woke up this morning and guess who was sitting on the back deck, staring in the back door window? Mighty! And boy was she hungry! Wherever she'd been for the last day and a half, she was hungry and glad to be home. What a relief! Now guess who's not going back outside today :-)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Where the hell is Matt

I'm kind of bummed about Mighty, but this made me smile today.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Bad news

Last night our cat Mighty didn't come home. Both cats were in the yard hanging out when I was doing my evening chores, collecting eggs and taking hay out to the animals, but it was no where near dark then. When I got done the cats were nowhere around. Later after it started to get dark I called them and Mouse came in, but no Mighty. Later Dave called her when he got home, still nothing.

A couple years ago we adopted a persian cat named Lucy from the pound. She was indoor, but she was so unhappy about it she took it out on us by leaving surprises everywhere. So we let her out and she was tremendously happy, and then one day she disappeared. The neighbors said they heard coyotes in the back field that evening, much closer than usual. So we assumed she had re-entered the food chain, so to speak.

After that we got two kittens, sisters, and planned to keep them as indoor kitties. That's Mighty and Mouse. But again, they were so unhappy they couldn't go explore the world outside, they spent all their time whining about it and trying to plot their escape. So after about a year and half or so, we finally let them go outside and just like before, they were extremely happy about the change. They catch field mice and voles and moles, and a couple times they have caught birds. Basically it's a cat's dream to live around here.

This whole indoor/outdoor kitty debate is a tough one. On one hand you want them to be safe and live long healthy lives. On the other hand you want them to be happy, and our cats have never been so content as when they spend their days outside prowling around and decimating the rodent population (a genuinely useful thing). So it's a tough one. Either way I don't like losing a cat. Maybe she'll show up again yet. I guess there's nothing to do but wait and see.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fresh eggs

After work I went out and checked the coop for eggs, because I hadn't found any that morning, and Penny lays one about every day and a half. Well, to my surprise, I found two! That can only mean one thing - the lighter colored, slightly smaller egg on the left came from the biggest of the 'wild' hens. Now I have two egglayers! Best of all, she laid it in the coop right next to Penny's egg. I was afraid she would sneak off and lay them somewhere else because she doesn't sleep in the coop, she sleeps in the tree in the pen.
*note: after taking this picture I turned around to go put them in the house and immediately dropped the bigger one :( Oh well, there'll be another one in about 36 hours...

Produce from the Orchard

We have a little orchard which the previous owners planted. For years we didn't know what to do with it. The apple trees were all espaliered and required special trimming. We had some trouble with insects and fungus, but we didn't want to spray toxic chemicals all over the place. So basically we ignored it, and by last year there was basically no production, and we just considered the trees good for shade.

But last winter we kept the sheep in the orchard because it was easy access to the shelter, and of course they pooped all over and tramped it in with their feet, and here it is the end of summer, and we had a bumper crop of cherries earlier this year, and now we have (from left to right) asian pears, regular pears, and three kinds of apples! And LOTS of them. Next year I would get bigger fruit if I cull back some of the fruit when they're smaller and give them room to grow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Unexpected visitor

We had a little excitement around the farm this morning. To start with I had let the flock out to wander the yard, and they came up on the deck. So I had the back door open (screen closed) so I could hear them - I like the chicken noises! I was sitting there working on my laptop when I heard a fuss that was much bigger than the usual 'hey, I'm pecking here, you go over there' sort of squabbles they have. This was MUCH bigger! So I jumped up just in time to see a hawk flying off, and the rooster strutting around all ampped up! Apparently the hawk had gone for the hens, but the rooster protected them! So now he's not just my handsome boy, he's a regular hero!

So I got some scratch and enticed the flock into the covered pen in case the hawk came back, and they were all happy to go! Everyone was sticking pretty close to the rooster, and he stood outside the pen until everyone was inside then he followed. Once everyone was safe I went back to work. Then I heard another odd sound, a little 'bok bok bok' kind of noise, but it didn't sound like a chicken - because it wasn't!

It was a wild turkey!

He/she was about three foot tall, look at it in front of that bench! That's a BIG bird!

He hung around the yard for a couple hours, mostly down in the corner by the shed, where he could see the chicken pen, but he couldn't figure out to walk around to the other side of the fence, then he could have gone in the orchard and got food and water that was sitting right outside the pen. Then he went on his way. It was cool to have a wild turkey drop by. I didn't even realize there were any in our area, but when I told the FedEx guy about it he said he saw a big flock of them a little further north a few days before.

We've been here almost ten years, and there's still new stuff to see!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chicken adventures

I let the chickens out to wander, and later found them ALL hanging out on the bench in the backyard!

Then they worked their way up to the deck...This is chubby Henny Penny who is still cranking out an egg every other day, and the lazy 'wild' chickens who sleep in a tree and haven't laid any eggs.

Looking around for any spilled birdseed. These are my buff orp girls. They've grown quite a bit, but they're a long way from laying.

Big Bird came over and looked right in the back windows. Isn't he a handsome boy? And he takes good care of his hens. I think he's moulting because I've found some feathers around the yard. I think his tail is starting to come in.

Garden update

Picked some carrots. They're a little small considering they've been growing all summer! Tasted good though.

Lots of cherry tomatoes and little tomatoes. Not bushels or anything, but enough for snacking on.
The pear shaped grape tomatoes are huge bushy plants, with hardly any tomatoes on them. Just one or two scattered around. I think I prefer the scrawny plants with lots of tomatoes!

Here's an acorn squash starting to grow.

The cabbages split open. I don't know if I should have picked them sooner. Either way, the bugs have been feasting on them. The goats still like them though!

We've also been getting zucchini out of the garden, but everyone does that. If I couldn't grow those, I would just give up completely.

The watermelon and the bunny

I checked on my watermelons and discovered the vine had been completely eaten away, leaving the little watermelon all by itself in the dirt. I suspect a bunny had a hand in this!

So I brought it inside, it's awfully small. It's supposed to be a mini-melon, but it's really mini. I wish it had had a bit more time on the vine.

Inside it's not quite done yet. Lots of seeds, not a lot of red. I tried it but it had no taste. Oh well, there's another vine out there still, with a little melon on it, maybe that one will have a chance to finish.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The last word on Charlotte

After spending a day hanging out on her egg sac, she disappeared around sunset. It was time to bring the cats in anyway, so I walked around to the backdoor with a flashlight to look for her. Mouse showed up just as I spotted her, skittering across the deck - yikes! She was HUGE down on the ground! Unfortunately Mouse saw her and pounced, and before I could step in to help, Charlotte grabbed a web and zipped back up out of the cat's reach! I grabbed Mouse and took her inside. I checked on the spider a couple more times, and by evening she had dissapeared again, and hadn't returned by this morning. So I'm thinking she's done her job and gone. Now we just have to decide if we want to leave the eggs there and see if they hatch in the spring, or move them out to the orchard somewhere and let them hatch there - a little farther from the house!

It was certainly interesting having her around the last couple weeks and getting a close up view of what spiders do. Since I'm pretty scared of spiders, it was creepy but cool. I have a new respect for spiders now.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Barclay and the cats

The cats have encouraged Barclay to play rough with them from the very beginning. Rougher than I would like to see, but it's hard to play referee all the time. I figure if they don't like it they will tell him. So I stay out of it and let them play.

The continuing story of Charlotte

Well, our resident spider has continued to fascinate us. A few days ago she apparently decided the door was too busy for her, and was tired of us ducking under her web twenty times a day, and she moved over to the stationary side of the patio door. This made us happier too!

We were interested to see what her next move was. I read online that the male would show up and she would build an egg sac. But I don't know how a male would find her up here on the house, so far away from the grass and bushes where I would expect him to be. Then we see a little spider show up (though he kept his distance). In the picture below you can see him way off to the left.

He's less than an inch across, compared to her three inches! Apparently that was big enough to get the job done, because last night we looked out in the evening and saw her working on an egg sac!

This morning when we got up and went to check on her we saw this!!!

Well, was she busy all night or what?!!! The most interesting part is that her abdomen is significantly deflated compared to yesterday before she started. I guess it was full of eggs and web last night.

I happened to be looking in time to see the male scurry away, rappel to the ground and head for the hills. I don't think he's coming back, the male doesn't always survive the encounter.

So she spent some of the day working on securing the egg sac to the window. Now that her job is done, she's parked herself on it and is just sitting there. I read she will die when the frosts come, and the eggs are on their own until spring. When the young spiders hatch they'll send out web ropes to catch the wind and move somewhere else. I'm very curious to see what happens next.