Friday, July 31, 2009

Chicks are safely stowed away

Mom and the chicks are safely stowed away in the chicken tractor, which is now parked in the orchard. So they can enjoy the company of the other chickens, without all the drama of fighting over food, getting attacked by cats, and mom leading them on adventures into the yard with the dogs. Plus they have their own food and water so I can make sure the chicks get a good start eating chick food - because I think the big chicks were stealing most of it and they really don't need it anymore.

I'll add a pic tomorrow, we had to wait until dusk to make the move. Once Mom had taken the chicks into the coop for the night, we snuck in and I stole them out from under her one by one, and handed them to Dave who put them in a box. Then I picked up Mom and we carried them all out to the tractor. There was a bit of fussing, but last I checked they were pigging out on chick food, so I'm sure the excitement was already forgotten.

Bad kitty! Put that chick down!

This morning I was in the orchard throwing out chick feed for the chicks, and the chickens all came running, including Big Red, completely ignoring her brood of chicks lagging behind. When I heard a peep/squeek and looked up to see Mighty had sprung out of the bushes and pounced on one of the tiny chicks! Before I could get over there Mom ran over and kicked her, so she dropped the chick and ran by me on the way out, and I landed a swat on the butt as she went! What a bad kitty! Afterwards I couldn't tell which chick she had caught, so hopefully it's ok, but if one kicks off in the next few days we'll know why. Tonight Big Red and the chicks are moving into the safety of a chicken tractor until the chicks are bigger than McNugget size.

Later I let the dogs out unattended, and when I went to check on them I saw Big Red had hopped out of the orchard (despite my attempts to keep them fenced in) and Barclay had been chasing her around. She can only get in and out by hopping over the gate, so he was blocking the gate. I got him out of the way and she jumped back into the orchard, but unfortunately whatever fun he had before I arrived has him all wound up to chase chickens. I did have him trained to ignore them, but that's all forgotten after a little chicken chasing .

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Chick overboard!

Last night I came home and heard a loud 'peep peep peep' coming from the orchard. I hurried down to see one of Reds little chicks IN THE WATER BOWL! He was up to his fuzzy little butt, and he couldn't jump back out, so he was peeping for help. Funny thing was, all the chickens were ignoring him, even Mom who had taken the other 9 chicks over to the chick feeder. Lot of help they are! So I went in and rescued him (he had no problem with this, he seemed glad to be picked up), and dried him off a bit on my shirt then took him over to Mom. I leaned over and showed her what I had in my hand and she fluffed up like 'hey, that's one of mine!', so I put the chick in front of her and it ran over to rejoin the other chicks and they all went off about their business. Then I put a flat rock in the water bowl so if anyone falls in again they should be able to get back out. Poor little chick!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Big Red and her chicks

I spent about 45 minutes sitting in the grass watching Red and her chicks yesterday afternoon.

Baby chickens are amazing! shortly after hatching they are walking around and scratching for food. Not like other birds where the parents have to bring them food, chicks are ready to go.

Mom was scratching around for bugs, and they would all rush to see if she found anything. She would sometimes step right on a chick, or bury them in debris if they were standing behind her. I guess that teaches them to stay out of the way!

And they're SO CUTE!!!!

Last time Red hatched the eggs I gave her after she turned broody, so she hatched a bunch of buff orpington babies. This time she saved up her own eggs and hatched those. So these are all Red crossed with Big Bird (the Buff Rooster we had). They all have a little smudge on top of their head, and a dark streak behind their eyes, otherwise they look just like the baby buffs did. It will be interesting to see how they look when they get their feathers.

It was warm and sunny, and the chicks were getting sleepy. Occasionally a lone chick would start to tip forwards, and it's eyes got heavy...

until it was completely tipped forward with it's beak on the ground :)

Some managed to nap sitting up

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Noctilucent Clouds

Are these Noctilucent clouds?

I've read about these clouds several times in the astronomy related newsletters I subscribe to, and I think this evening we got a rare showing of them! I walked outside to play with the dogs and I looked out at the sunset and saw these beautiful, whispy, ice-blue clouds in the East.

Sunset was already pretty much over and the stars were already out in force, yet these clouds were brightly lit. Whatever they were, they were beautiful, with incredible texture. I wish I had had a tripod handy (and my old camera) so I could have gotten a longer exposure. As it was I tried some different setting on my little point & shoot to try and capture these strange night-time clouds.

The return of Big Red

This morning I was out playing with the dogs and the chicks were making quite a fuss, peeping and all. I went to see what was up, and saw a flash of red..there's only two red chickens in my coop, and one of them is in the brooder sitting on golf balls right now.

Yay, it's Big Red! She has returned, and she brought a whole herd of little peeps with her! 9 or 10 by our count. They're really hard to count, they follow mom around like a cloud!

Barclay pointed out the empty eggshells in the nest. So here's the funny part - the nest is in the backyard. In the overgrown old garden. No more than 10 feet from the chicken pen, the water trough, and the gate to the orchard. In other words, this whole time she has been sitting on her eggs literally under our noses! How come the dogs never bothered her? They must have known she was there, but she wouldn't run and flap - she probably just fluffed up and hissed at them, and the dogs backed off. Even when our friends visited with their dog Sam, who chased the rooster around the garden, she was right there in the middle of it not budging off her eggs - what an amazing Mom! Now, how did she lead that little troupe of chicks from the backyard back into my carefully secured chicken pen?

Glad to see everyone is home and safe!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

For our Wednesday hike we headed out this morning to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, a huge sanctuary that runs along the Washington bank of the Columbia River. The refuge is a great place to hike, there are only a few trails, as most of the property is off limits to prevent disturbing the wildlife, but the views from the trails are excellent and there are lots of interesting things to see.

We started up on the Carty Unit at the Oaks to Wetlands trail. It begins with an impressive arched footbridge taking you over the busy amtrak rail line.

And after a couple hundred yards you get your first view of the refuge over Duck Lake - beautiful!

Along the way you pass the Cathlapotle cedar plank house. This recreation was built in 2005 as part of the celebration of Lewis & Clark's 1805 expedition when they met locals living in these kinds of houses.

The Oaks to Wetlands trail is a two mile loop which reached Boot Lake at it's far end. This 'green field' is Boot Lake. That's aquatic plants all the way to the far tree line.

Unfortunately our plan to hike a wetlands trail in the middle of summer was not well thought out. We were immediately beset by a cloud of hungry Boot Lake mosquitos who persued us all the way back to the car!

Along the way we stopped at a neat rocky overlook and saw this beautiful bird, I think it's a Great Egret, perched high up in a tree.

After we double-timed it back to the car, we headed down to the River S Unit of the refuge to do the four mile driving loop. You can also walk this loop in the summer, but after our little escape from the mosquitos neither of us felt like taking the chance. So we drove.

River Otter, Muskrat, Nutria? I can't tell...

An osprey!

Along the way you can park and go to a blind that looks out over Rest Lake. There were a lot of herons out there, some of them fighting and gliding around. Lots of smaller birds as well. It would be a great place to have a spotting scope.

Dave at the blind

This was a really neat trip, and we'll go again, but maybe after mosquito season is over!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Silk Paintings

Sorry for the bad picture, it's hard to take a picture of a picture.

We don't have a lot of artwork around the house. One of the few pieces that really means something to me is this beautiful Japanese silk painting, at least I think that's what it is. I know it's on silk. It was my great grandfather's, and then my grandfather had it in his room, and then after he passed I asked Grandma if I could have it. I had always loved it, and could spend hours gazing into it and wondering who lived in the houses and where the boats were going.

It had spent many years in a cheap wooden frame, pressed up against the glass, and a few years ago I noticed the paint was sticking to the glass in spots. So I took it to a frame shop and had it archive framed with acid free paper and all that.

Today we spent our day off downtown, had lunch, and then went to the antique stores, and I saw this:

Another vintage silk painting! It's not as colorful or detailed as mine, but for $20 I had to have it. There is something about paint on silk, it is beautiful, it almost glows. Someday I'll have to have this one re-framed to match the other and display them side by side. I was just so surprised to see another old silk painting. I love it!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

An owl!

Last night I stepped out the back door after dusk to do something, I don't remember what, and I was surprised when a big bird flew out of the cherry tree, which is about 30ft off the back deck. I immediately recognized it as an owl because it was BIG, much bigger than the crows who usually hang out there, and it made no noise flying. It flew across the backyard and landed in one of the fir trees along our back property line. These are young fir trees, maybe only 20ft tall, so they barely held his weight. I got a good look at his sillouette against the darkening sky. Then I looked down and noticed Mouse was stalking towards him! What an idiot! Not only was he 20ft up in a tree, but he was bigger than she is! He decided he was getting too much attention and took off and silently flapped across the pasture and dissapeared into the darkness. We have seen a few owls, and occasionally heard them, but this was the most interesting encounter yet!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Big Red is still AWOL

Big Red is still missing. I'm fairly confidant that she is hiding somewhere hatching eggs. My main concern is that now that I have secured the chicken orchard, she will show up with a clutch of chicks following her and NOT be able to get back in with the other chickens. And of course if I let the dogs out and they find her with a batch of chicks - well, the results could be tragic.

The orchard is big, she could be in there somewhere, holed up in the blackberry bushes maybe. We'll just have to see what happens.

In other news, I was watching the baby chicks, and I think only 3 or 4 of the 9 chicks are roosters - that will mean a lot more eggs next year!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More raspberry jam

I made another 8 jars of raspberry jam last night, but this time I ran it through a sieve to remove most of the seeds, and I used a low-sugar recipe. Still tasted plenty sweet to me!

When I made strawberry jam the flat made 20+ jars, but this time I only got 16 jars out of the flat of raspberries. I think the difference was all the seeds and pulp lost to sieving it. I gave the leftovers to the chix, so they weren't wasted.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chickens and Chicks

The new blue roos are making themselves at home. They seem to be at the bottom of the pecking order for now, but someone has to be. Might as well be the new guys.

The chicks are feathering out.

Once you have feathers you have to spend time preening them. Check out the guy bottom right :)

And they have discovered they can jump up on the chair and have a view over their entire future kingdom.

Raspberry Freezer Jam

Cookie Bear says 'yum'!

It's raspberry season, so I got a flat of local berries and made a batch of freezer jam last night. I'm going to make the rest tonight, but I'm going ot try the low-sugar recipe. This adds to the shelf full of strawberry jam already in the freezer, and I plan on doing some blackberry jam when our berries ripen. From what I can see now, it looks like we might have a bumper crop this year!

Duelling Crockpots

I have not one but TWO crockpots cooking today. I got up first thing this morning and prepared Chipotle Beef Barbacoa (hopefully close to the barbacoa you get at the Chipotle fast food place, which is very good, but there's not one anywhere near here) and got it cooking in the crockpot. By dinnertime that beef should be falling apart! I also prepared pinto beans, and have them cooking in the little crockpot with bacon, onions, garlic, some spices, and one chipotle pepper left over from the barbacoa. The house smells terrific :)

I also have some beef marinating in the fridge and we'll grill that for dinner, in case the crockpot beef is too spicy. Either way there will be choice of mild or spicy beef and lots of leftovers! Yesterday I made fresh pico de gallo for snacking on. I saw on TV how to remove the membrane from a jalepeno so it wouldn'tbe so hot, and it's perfect (I'm a real whimp when it comes to spicy food)!

I read real barbacoa involves cooking a goat in a pit for hours and hours, carefully watched over by a guy drinking a beer - apparently that's a really important part of the recipe. I would love to have food that was really cooked in a pit someday. Sounds so rustic.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chicken wire and roosters

Today I finished putting chicken wire around the orchard fence in an effort to contain my wayward chickens. Floppy the Hen has been getting out everyday, and we find her wandering around the backyard. This encourages the dog to chase chickens, and allows her to hide her eggs somewhere in the yard (so today I only got 2 eggs out of the coop). Of our 8 hens, Big Red is missing, Little Red is broody, the black hen is mothering chicks, so that leaves 5 hens to lay eggs - Penny and the four buff orpingtons. Since a hen lays an egg every day and a half or so, it about makes sense that I'm getting 2 or 3 eggs a day. I'll be glad when everyone gets back into production, we have friends waiting for eggs.

Today I also put the new roosters into the orchard. I let everyone out into the yard together, and gave them scratch and slowly lured them back into the orchard. There was a bit of fussing and pecking, but I'm sure the new roosters will figure out their place in the flock.

Update: I haven't seen a wandering chicken since I finished the fence - yay, and I've gone from 2-3 eggs a day to a steady 4 - seems like somebody WAS hiding her eggs from me!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Big Red, where are you?

Big Red, seen here with one of her chicks this spring, has disappeared. I last saw her on the 5th I think, she showed up in the afternoon when I put some scratch out for everyone. But I haven't seen her since then. She is one of my 'wandering' chickens, who knows how to get out of the orchard and wander around the yard. Egg production has been down for a few weeks so I suspected someone was not laying their eggs in the henhouse to be picked up. Now I'm pretty sure it was her. So unless she wandered over to the neighbors and got eaten by their dog, or got picked up by a hawk, she is probably hunkered down over a hidden clutch of eggs somewhere. I guess if she shows back up at the end of the month with chicks we'll know for sure!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bread crumbs!

I threw some bread into the pen and enjoyed watching the hens and chicks scurrying around gobbling it up :) this is the FUN part of having chickens!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Out with the old, in with the new

Today I got two new roosters from Sharon at SnoKit Farms. She had a couple extra blue cochins, and I thought Penny would enjoy having some other cochins waddling around the pen with her, so I said 'bring them on over'! They have not been handled so I'm going to keep them in the chicken tractor a few days and see if I can make friends with them. I'd also like to finish the chickenwire fencing around the pen before I let them loose, else the other chickens might teach them bad habits and I'll be stuck with even more wandering chickens!

As for Big Bird, he made his own bed, and I do not regret a thing. He is gone now, and we'll hope these new roosters stay friendly and we won't have to go through this again. Sharon, who has about 200 chickens of every color and size you can imagine, said that is one thing she will not put up with - mean roosters have to go. They can't be retrained or reasoned with. So we did what we had to do.

More drama with the lawnmower

Last week Dave was mowing the lawn while I was at work. Partway through the day he called me and said 'it's sitting in the driveway smoldering...' Hmm, that doesn't seem like something you want your lawnmower to do! He had doused it with water, and parked it out in the driveway far away from anything else flammable, and left it there while he came to the shop and traded places so I could check it out. I was thinking a wheel bearing had gone bad, but it turned out some grass debris had gotten into the front frame member and caught fire from the muffler being so close. We dug all the grass out and determined it was good to go and he finished mowing the field that evening.

Now, the lawnmower is in pieces again.

This time I took it apart because it won't recharge the battery during use, so everytime we want to use it we have to plug the charger in a few hours before to get the battery charged back up. I suspected the alternator.

Last year I bought a new battery for it after replacing the starter (which was major surgery) and stupidly plugged it in backwards (the posts were reversed from the previous battery) and fried a number of things including a fuse and the original red battery cable, which I replaced last year. But it's inability to recharge properly was still related to that incident.

This is the alternator. There's not really much to it to go bad, but it turns out there's a diode in the connector that acts like a one-way valve for electricity. I think it got blown out. At least it would make sense, and there's no way to tell without an expensive test meter. So I ordered a new alternator for it, $30 from the John Deere shop, and hopefully I'll have it back and running again soon.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Mama chicks in the pen

Yesterday I finished putting chicken wire around the bottom of the chicken pen fence, and so I put the mama hen and her 9 chicks into the pen. All day they have been wandering around the pen as part of the flock. Mom doesn't let the other hens too close, but when I threw some scratch in there everyone was one big happy flock pecking at the corn. The chicks are so cute to watch!

It's great to see them out stretching their legs and enjoying the grass. The chicken tractor was too cramped for that many chicks for very long!

On the other side of the yard Big Bird is angrily stomping around in his chicken tractor by himself. I kid you not - he is pissed! Looks like he'd like to take someone out! I am so relieved to have him contained, I was able to go into the chicken pen and check on the chicks and take pictures without having to watch my back the whole time.

What to do with Big Bird is another question. Nobody wants a mean rooster, and most people I've talked to about it say that the only good place for a mean rooster is the stewpot. But would I have the guts? He is 'chicken' after all.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Crazy bird on the loose!

Big bird has gone completely off his nut for some reason. After the attack yesterday perhaps he thought he had won the battle and was feeling pretty proud of himself (in those two cells he rubs together and calls a brain). Today he sealed his fate.

I gave away the baby turkeys today. I was getting worn out keeping up with them, and I was concerned about what was going to happen when they outgrew the tractor, which was going to be soon. So I advertised them on the chicken list and a lady came over and gave me two bags of chicken feed and a bag of scratch for them, which made me happy.

Since she is a chicken expert, I mentioned what Big Bird had done and she said she would help me clip his spurs while she was here. So we went into the coop and he walked up to her and jumped up to kick her and she caught him in mid jump. We took him to the garage and trimmed his spurs and ground them down with the dremel. Did his beak too. Then let him go, and she thought that should have put him in his place a bit. After she left I went around back to put some scratch out and get everyone back into the pen area, and he walked up and kicked me, so I kicked him away. He picked himself up and came after me again! I kicked him away again, now in self-defense! And he jumped up and came after me again! That time I kicked him about five foot away and really knocked him for a loop, and when he got up he gave me the eye, but he finally walked away. I don't know what got into him. So now I have a big bruise on my knee where he got me with one of his kicks!

I spent the day working outside the chicken pen putting chicken wire around the bottom so the chickens will be contained, and I'm putting mama hen and her chicks in there with the rest of the chickens, so everyone will be together. After dark I moved mama hen in, and moved Big Bird out. He was easy to catch because he was sleeping! I took him out and stuck him in the empty chicken tractor and that's where he will stay until he leaves. He's worn out his welcome, and we can't trust him not to hurt someone. He'll be gone by next weekend one way or the other.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Rooster attack

Poor Dave's hand is wrapped up like a prizefighter tonight thanks to butthead Big Bird. Dave reached through the fence to pet the friendly hen and Big Bird ran over and jumped at him. He pulled his hand back not thinking he had even got him, and looked at it and blood was running all down his arm! The damn bird had poked a hole in just the right place, it was bleeding like crazy! We ran inside and rinsed it off, and he kept his thumb over the hole while I got a couple gauze pads ready. I got two of them over it, and he sat down on the toilet, then suddenly he took a header and was out on the floor! Scary! I kept pressure on the wound and he quickly came to again. Then he was able to hold it while I finished wrapping it. Glad I took those first aid classes.

Of course the urgent care place isn't open today (you think they would have business on the 4th of July with everyone blowing off thumbs and whatnot), so we'll have to go in the morning and have them take a look at it. Needless to say we are pretty unhappy with Big Bird. I'm going to have to find him another home, or he's going to be dinner. Dave says he's about ready to go out there and take care of him himself!

Update: Dave is fine. We went to urgent care this morning and they cleaned it out, gave him a tetnus shot, and some antibiotics since it's a puncture wound. It's actually surprisingly small, it must have hit a vein or something because it sure bled like crazy. But he feels fine and it looked fine, we just have to watch it and make sure it doesn't get infected.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Sick as a dog!

Wednesday night I was sick as a dog for no particular reason. Dave and I pretty much ate the same things yesterday, with just a couple exceptions. He was fine, but I sure got it. It felt like a big hand grabbed me in the middle and squeezed, I got cramps, and all sorts of other unpleasant things happened. I have not been that sick since I was a little kid! And of course today I am just sore all over. Bleech!

Update on Saturday: Thanx for the concern. All better now, but I still don't know what caused it. I suspect some oranges I bought, as I ate one without washing it. I thought that would be ok, because you don't eat the peel, but if it had anything on the outside it would have got on my hands and on the part I ate. I juiced a couple yesterday morning and they had a funny chemical taste, so I threw them away. I have a feeling there was something wrong with that batch.

Walk around Battle Ground Lake

I took Barclay for a walk around the lake on Tuesday. I wanted to go somewhere cool and shady where he could jump in the water if he wanted to. That was the perfect place to go! But there were a lot of people there, even for a Tuesday. Luckily most of them were in the wading area, and so we only ran into a couple groups on the lake trail. One couple looked like they were on an expedition, and they were from out of town so we chatted for a bit, talked about what other stuff there was to see in the area. It's funny to see people outfitted for a long hike on the lake trail, because it's really just a stroll, and it's less than a mile total. Though sometimes I have gone with a full backpack just to get in shape for carrying my pack. So I suppose then I look silly too :)

It's hard to get Barclay to sit still for a picture - he wants to go go go! There's so much to see!

Like baby ducks!

We stopped and waded around in the water a bit here and there. I just wanted to make sure he stayed cool. He doesn't know if he can swim yet, so I want to encourage him to play in the water whenever we get a chance. One of these days we'll have to get him out into water where he can paddle a bit. I think he would enjoy it.