Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My first attempt at saving tomato seeds

A friend grows these wonderful little tomatoes every year. They are small and sweet, like giant cherry tomatoes. She said her father ordered the seeds for them about 40 years ago from a 4H club up north that had developed them to be an early tomato for the NW climate. They grow on low bushes and are productive from July on throughout the season. Every year she saves the seeds so she can grow them again next year. He family has been growing these for 40 years - how's that for a recommendation?!


Start by cutting a few tomatoes open

And scoop out the middle with the seeds (save the rest for eatin')

Separate the seeds from the pulp as much as you can. and rinse them in a fine strainer, then put them in a small jar of water on the windowsill for three days. The pulp will slowly let off the seeds and float to the top. I pour it off and replace with fresh water every day.

Rinse them one more time to remove any leftover pulp, and dry them on a coffee filter. After they are completely dry you can put them away in an envelope for planting next year. 

I hope this works, I can't wait to grow my own next year!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Barclay and the limp

This morning we were outside playing, and Barclay was at one end of the yard when he spotted one of the cats coming through the gate at the other end. He paused a second and then charged across the yard at full speed. I was sitting in the middle, on the deck, and looked over at the cat to see what she was going to do, when I heard a crash, and looked back and Barclay was still running at top speed, but he had obviously run into the plastic lounge chair! I don't know if he tried to jump over it, or just had his eye on the cat and ran into it. Either way he made it about twenty feet past the chair and suddenly stopped with a concerned look on his face, and turned around and limped back towards the middle of the yard.

I went over to him and asked him how he was, and he looked at me and flopped over on his side and held up his paw for inspection. I looked it over and it seemed ok, but he just kept laying there, looking at me through one eye. It always cracks me up when puppies first discover they aren't invincible and something hurts them! He just laid there on his side and I said 'well, how about we go inside?' and after a minute he sat up with this 'I guess so' sort of look, and limped inside and flopped over in the hallway.

I had to go to work, but I came back and picked him up later and he was back to his usual self, no limp at all (as I suspected). Poor little guy didn't even know he COULD get hurt! I'm sure he'll forget and be charging around the yard with a complete disregard for his own safety again in no time.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Out with Big Red and her roosters

Big Red has been seriously getting on my nerves. She won't stay in the orchard area with the other chickens. I even clipped her wings to make it harder for her to fly over the fence, and that didn't do the trick. So several times a day I was finding her out and about, and getting chased by the dogs, and calling her chicks to come out and join her (though her chicks don't seem to need her anymore, they spend more time with the rest of the flock than she did)!. Worst of all she was hiding her eggs somewhere out in the bushes! So I had enough, and asked if anyone wanted her on the chicken list, and sure enough someone piped up and said they'd trade a young buff hen for her. Deal! They came by tonight and gave me a lovely little gold Buff Orpington hen (I'll get a picture of her tomorrow). She's very sweet, and calmly sat in my arms while I was talking to the folks who brought her over. When they left it was already getting dark and the other chickens had already gone to roost, so I slipped her into the coop. They should all wake up together and be one big happy flock in the morning.

Likewise I found a home for three of the baby roosters. So far I only had three I was sure of, so I gave those away. There's two more I suspect, but I'm waiting to make sure. I'm not sure why this lady wanted all the roosters she could get. She asked me to call her and she'd come get any more I pick out. I guess I should just be happy I found someone to take them. I'm guessing they'll grow up to be dinner, but that's sort of a rooster's lot in life. Since you only need one rooster for 8 or so hens, and there's a 50/50 split, that's a lot of extra roosters!

I am thinking of building a more secure chicken run area off the coop, where I can confine them when I want to. I'm getting really tired of this constant escaping. It would be nice to build something where I could easily watch them from the house too. Right now the orchard is just far enough away I can't really see them and enjoy them without going out there. It would be nice this winter if I could just glance out the window and see my girls :)

Cold Hives part 2

Well, the Zyrtec worked really well. I only took one, and I didn't have hives again until today, even though there were several situations where I was expecting to get them - almost asking for it really! However, the second day after I took it I started to get anxiety and jitters and had trouble concentrating. I can't say for sure it was the Zyrtec. The side effects of it don't mention anything like that, except in the list of very rare side effects. And it's also 'that time' (you ladies know what I mean) and sometimes that throws my body off in weird ways. I've had problems with anxiety attacks before, but I haven't had one like this for a long time. I hate to blame the Zyrtec, when it could just be coincidence. The anxiety lasted until today also, and when I got some hives on my hands and feet this morning, I reached for a Claratin, just to be safe. I think I'll wait a while before I try another Zyrtec.  It sure was nice to be hive-free for a few days though!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Separating the Boys from the Girls

Someone asked me how I could tell my chicky boys from the chicky girls...

I'm going to say 'Boy' - cocky strut, big red comb and wattles, walking around looking like he's running the place.

And for this one - 'Girl'. Hardly any comb or wattles showing. Soft face. Not standing as tall. Just walking around looking for food.

And that's at about 6 weeks, they've just feathered out. I think not all breeds are as clear cut as these two make it look, and there are more roosters in this group who just aren't developed enough to tell yet, but I can definitely tell on some of them already, and I have a whole bunch of suspicions about the rest.

This is one of the 11 week old chicks I kept, because I'm pretty sure it's a hen. The boys all had a LOT more red and comb development.

Eventually the girls do develop a nice comb and wattles (the stuff hanging down). This is my adult hen, the only one who's giving me eggs right now.

This is 'Beautiful', my oldest hen - I don't know how old she is, but she was already laying when I got her last year. I think she might be done. I was told their combs lose their color when they're done laying. Look at these two side by side:

Big difference in color! They used to be the same, in fact I could only tell them apart by personality. Either way I'm pretty sure she's not laying. However she's safe from the stewpot because she's very sweet, and she always comes up to the fence to get treats, and follows me around when I'm in the orchard making cute 'watcha doin?' noises.

This is the only rooster I kept out of the batch of 11 week old chicks. He's Penny's baby, so he has feathered feet, and a rounder, heavier body like a cochin. In this picture he's busy working over the windfall pears. You can see how he has a more developed comb than the 11 week old hen a couple pictures back (though considerably less than his pure Buff Orpington brothers had). Also when he's walking around he walks real tall and acts like a rooster. He's half Buff Orpington, so he might just be taller and lankier than a cochin anyway. It will be interesting to see what he looks like as he matures.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cold Hives (cold urticaria)

Some of my friends know I have a medical condition where I break out in hives when I get chilled. It's called Cold Urticaria. It doesn't have to be very cold to make it happen, I have had a miserable case of hives while in California on a warm summer day at Disneyland because I got splashed on the log ride! And I often get it on my hands while doing my morning chores outdoors, like feeding the chickens, or just from walking around barefoot inside. I keep towels on the floor in the bathroom to avoid stepping on the cold tiles. The hives can be the size of a pencil eraser, or several inches across, and if I get too many I start to feel woozy because the hives are actually fluid that is pulled out of the blood, causing low blood pressure. So it can be a pretty serious condition, in addition to being itchy!

It started about ten years ago, shortly after we moved to our farm, and I was out mowing the field on a regular cool day (we do live in the NW, after all) and got itchy bumps all over my upper body. I had no idea what was going on, it was freaky. Later I got them on my feet, and it hurt to walk on them, I remember spending a miserable evening on the couch wondering what was going on. When I asked my doctor (I had a doctor I really liked at the time) she thought it was weird. Eventually we figured out it was the cold that was doing it. There was no reason for it to happen, some people just suddenly get it, and no telling if I would eventually out grow it. She tried some anti-histamines on me, and eventually we settled on Claratin, which doesn't stop it, but takes the edge off. I always keep a few pills in my wallet.

It doesn't sound like much, but it seems to effect everything I do, from the moment I get up in the morning, to bedtime. I have to constantly consider the weather, where I'm going to be, what I'll be doing, if I should take a Claratin to ward off any potential hives. And I'm pretty scatterbrained sometimes, so it's hard for me to remember to think ahead. Even after ten years of dealing with it I'll do something I shouldn't and end up broken out and miserable. Last week I dozed off in the shade on the swingchair after work, and even though it was a beautiful warm summer day, I broke out something fierce! Cool airconditioned rooms in the heat of summer will set it off. Getting sweaty on a breezy day will do me in. I don't even wear my wedding ring anymore because my fingers frequently swell up with hives and then it's too tight. I can't pick up metal tools in the garage without gloves on on a cold day. I can't spend the evenings outside using my telescope without being bundled up like an arctic adventurer.

The doctor I liked moved away a few years ago, and last year I tried a new doctor, and when I told him about the cold hives he completely blew it off with "I've never heard of anything like that". He shut me down so fast I wanted to cry. He had no idea how serious it was, and with that attitude, he certainly wasn't going to be any help.

Yesterday I was surfing for any new info on this condition, and the wiki article linked above has a reference to a medical paper I had not seen before, which indicates a particular medicine might be helpful. I looked up that medicine and it's now available OTC as Zyrtec. So I got some yesterday and took it, and all afternoon and evening I was out playing with the dog, checking on the chickens, doing this and that, and not once did I feel the tingle of hives coming on. After dark I was sitting outside on the swing chair in a t-shirt, amazed that I was not breaking out. I was really impressed, I think this is much better than the Claratin. I wouldn't wish this condition on anyone, and there's no reason I got it, and no telling when it will go away. If I can find medicine to make me feel better and not break out in hives at the slightest chill, that would be a significant improvement in my life!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Barclay and Jack

Barclay and Jack had a rip-roarin' time playing out in the yard today. It's funny to watch them start it up, because there will be a bit of growling and posturing, but tails are wagging, and next thing you know...

Someone's on the ground getting chewed on!

And they take turns...
Or they'll grab some nasty old tug toy they dug up - ew!
Barclay says 'I love playing with Jack!'

Thursday, September 10, 2009

All the critters

Big Red and her chicks are mixing in just fine with the rest of the flock (that's her and her chicks in the back center). I even saw her biggest rooster chick picking a fight with Copper, the baby cochin roo who's easily three times his size. They fluffed up and jumped in the air and everything!

The cats are never far away when I'm doing chores. Mighty hopped up on the post to see what was going on.

Barclay and Jack had a crazy wrestling match on the sofa.

Hey stop, that tickles!

Poor Alki is quite old, has cancer, potty issues, is mostly blind and deaf. She mostly naps, and eats cookies...

Did someone say cookies?

(Bounds towards the kitchen) I'm getting a cookie, right?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Unloaded some roosters

I sent four baby roosters off to their new home today. I advertised them on the chicken list for free and had someone who absolutely wanted them, but never emailed me back. So I put them on CL and had three people interested within an hour, so I wrote back to the first, no response, wrote to the second, no response, wrote to the third and she wanted to come right over and get them. THEN the first person responded (two days after I initially contacted her), and I had to tell her it was too late. People on CL will jump at anything that's free, but getting them to follow through can be a challenge. The annoyance of finding them new homes masked the sadness at getting rid of them. They were beautiful birds, but there's no way to keep six roosters and eight hens, nobody would be happy.

Here's one of the pretty hens we're keeping for future egg production. 

This is Beautiful the friendly buff hen, and Copper, the young cochin rooster. I decided to keep him for the moment because I like his buff color and feathered feet, and his personality is very mellow. In the background is the Blue Cochin...

He is a really spectacular bird! Very mellow, doesn't seem to bother anyone, never harasses me. So I think I'll keep him and the buff cochin boy and see how they get along with the girls. In reality I don't need any roosters, my girls would be perfectly happy without them, but I kind of like the cock-a-doodle-do-ing, and seeing them strutting around.

The buff cochin boy of course is Penny's boy. Penny is looking good. She finished her moult and is covered in beautiful new feathers.

But she still looks like a bowling ball with a head! I love her personality. She is cranky and cross with the other chickens, but they aren't too scared of her because she's not real fast on those big feathered feet. She makes a lot of noise to let everyone know to get out of her way! I don't think she'd be welcome in a suburban backyard - she lets the whole neighborhood know what she's up to.

Over in the chicken tractor Big Red's chicks are growing fast, going through a lot of food, and producing a lot of poop. So I have to move the tractor every couple days to fresh grass. I'm about ready to put them back in the coop with the rest of the hens so they have more space to forage. We'll see if Mom insists on teaching them to be escape artists. 

And you know what's waiting for me in there: more baby roosters! Can you spot the baby roosters? The easy ones are in the back, one on the far left, and one under mom's head. You can tell by the development of their red combs. The boys already have more comb than Mom! The girls have none at all.

But whatever happened to that runt?

Still alive, still runty (compared to his big brother). You'd think a bantam snuck in and laid an egg! I really didn't think he would make it, but he's growing - slowly!

After I posted this I decided to go out and move Big Red and her chicks into the main chicken area. It was easy enough to let them out of the tractor, and they were so happy they were jumping around, flapping and pouncing on each other. Leading them to the chicken area was a bit tougher. I used some scratch to get them moving, but they weren't too interested in following. I tried herding them, but the chicks would scatter and then Mom would get mad and start running around to gather them up. It took a while but I finally got them all in the pen. They seemed very happy to have all that room, and were scratching around and enjoying the windfall pears in the orchard/chicken pen. Now I just have to wait to see if they stay put!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

More fresh Veg

Thanks to my friend at Five Star Farms, and my 4H friend Martha, I am absolutely overrun with wonderful garden-fresh veg!
Check out all the wonderful tomatoes. The giant tomatoes in the front are the ugliest tomatoes I've ever seen, and they're also the tastiest! Yum!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Chicken Update

Black Hen and her chicks are doing fine, in fact the biggest rooster is as tall as she is! He's just not as filled out. They are both confined to a chicken tractor because she kept escaping the coop and hiding her eggs and getting chased by dogs. He's just in there to keep her company and give her someone to boss around.
Big Red and her chicks are doing well in another chicken tractor in the backyard. She was also escaping the coop and leading her chicks on field trips around the yard. Not coincidence that Black Hen and Big Red are sisters. The first half a year I had them they slept in a tree every night instead of going in the coop. They are a cross between regular barnyard chickens and game hens, and so they are a bit wilder than other chickens, and I really don't want their chicks to learn that from them. So I am keeping this batch confined so they don't get in the habit of thinking the whole yard is theirs to explore.

In the first picture the runt is on the right, in this picture he's right behind mom, under her tail. You can see how small he is compared to the other chicks. They are all in that awkward phase where they don't quite have all their feathers, and they have skinny necks, and they just look funny!

Back in the main coop the rest of Black Hen's chicks are merging nicely with the existing flock, as is the blue cochin rooster. He is mellow, and stays out of my way, while the baby roosters have run right up and pecked my feet - hmmm, shades of Big Bird?! One of the young roosters is a cochin rooster, and seems to have the mellow cochin personality, so I think I'll keep that one - the rest of them will have to go.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

My little pond

In the courtyard in front of our house is my little japanese garden - at least that's what I intended years ago when I started this project. But then the invasive bamboo took over and clogged the pond surface with constantly falling leaves, and plants in the pond reached their roots over and choked the pond pump into submission, and for the last year it has mostly been a challenge to keep it from becoming a mosquito heaven, and keeping the dogs from jumping into the stinky stagnant water. Yuk!

Today I made some good progress on fixing it up again. A few weeks ago I pulled the pump and cleaned it and got it running again. Then I cleaned out the pond as best as I could and refilled it with stones, burying the pump at the bottom and hiding the tubing under the rocks. The outlet is on the right, at the top of the stack of rocks, hidden by a piece of driftwood (all this stuff I stole out of my fishroom, since I don't have any aquariums running anymore).

Once again our front walkway echos with the sound of water gently trickling over the rocks.

The pond looks so pretty reflecting the bamboo, at least it would if you didn't know that BAMBOO IS EVIL!!! It must go! That's my next project. I have about half of it cut down again, but I keep finding giant spiders living in it, so progress is slow. Everytime I find one I get the creepy-crawlies and have to go inside for a bit ! The problem with bamboo is that I've cut it to the ground three times, it just keeps coming back. I need to be more persistent than it is, and eventaully it will quit coming back.

 I'm happy with this little bit of progress. It's a good start. 

Cinnamon pull apart

I have always wanted to make homemade cinnamon rolls, but I do not have much experience with yeast breads. The other night I was watching Good Eats, and the subject was Breakfast Buns, and I decided to give it a go. I wasn't brave enough to go for the rolls, but he had another recipe on there that made a pull-apart in a bundt pan, so I combined the cinnamon and the cream-cheese frosting (not pictured) but did it pull-apart style in my mini-bundt pan (about 8 inches across) - it was the perfect size for the two of us, and lasted several days. So good, and not as hard as I thought it would be! I'll be doing this again for sure!

Spider in the telly!

Our living room TV is an older projection big-screen. There has been a cobweb inside it for quite some time, draped across the screen, driving me nuts. But we've been ignoring it. Today we were relaxing (it's our day off), watching TV, when suddenly a big spider went skittering across the screen - yikes! Even from across the room it looked pretty big! Dave went to investigate and it was inside the TV! How annoying. He tapped on the screen and it didn't react. Eventually it went off to the side, so we sat back down to continue watching the show, but the darned spider kept making more trips across the screen. About the third or fourth time I'd had enough!

We pulled the TV out and I got my tools and we pulled the back off of it. I was surprised that the whole upper part of the cabinet, even though it is very wide, consisted of nothing other than the screen, and a big angled mirror. The projection lenses were in the bottom, pointed up at the mirror. All the workings of the TV were in the bottom of the cabinet. I think the spider had been on the mirror, and that's why it didn't react when Dave tapped on the screen. We found the spider (an odd looking red spider with a black abdomen, and very stout) and put him outside. Then we vacuumed out the back of the screen and got rid of the cobweb, dusted the lenses and the mirror, and put it all back together.

Much better, no more cobwebs, and no more spider running across people's faces!