Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hawks in, owls out.

We haven't seen or heard from our owls in awhile. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with our new raptors - a pair of hawks that took up residence a few months back. For the first week that they were here, they were checking the place out and the our property was ringing with owl and hawk cries. Then they settled in, they all seemed to co-exist, but now the owls are silent or gone.

I watch the hawks closely because they're more of a danger to my poultry than the owls are since the poultry is in coops at night. They've circled the pen but aren't able to get in, so no losses to hawks yet.

I knew they were raising babies and even had an eye on their nest.





Do you see it there? Up in the top of the tree.


Every day I take my goats down into the lower pasture and have them eat the thistles that are down there. It's great fun. While the goats are eating, I have to stand in the middle of the thistle patch to keep them there.


It never ceases to amaze me how much goats love plants that other animals won't even look twice at.

While I'm up to my knees in thistles, in the sun, my girls are lounging under a tree with the horse they rode in on.

Huh. I thought that was a better picture. Hannah's the pink dot, she's helping her sister put her shoes back on, and Princess is the blaze of white to the right, grazing under the trees.

I got distracted yelling things back and forth with Hannah and my goats took the opportunity to go eat the good stuff. Tree leaves. I heard a squawk and looked up to see this:




Pulling on those leaves made the branch move. Moving the branch made the baby tree move. Moving the baby tree made something big flap its wings to keep its balance.

I was intrigued. I moved closer.

Oh, there it is. A baby hawk. How cute. I called the girls over, they looked at it, made appropriate squeals of joy and ran back to play with the pony. After Hannah got back under the trees she turned to yell out to me "Be careful that the mother and daddy hawk don't attack you, ok, Mother? They can't get us, we're under the tree." Ok, sweetie. Thank you.

I decided to see how close I could get before it flew away.

It's watching the dog.

Now it's posing. Handsome little thing. Maybe if I go around the tree it will fly away.

Nope, not yet.

That's its best side. Look at the gorgeous coloring.

It was about here that I realized that the bird couldn't fly well enough to fly away. But my relatively new country brain finally overrode my "common sense ain't all that common" city brain and I realized that even if he couldn't fly, he was starting to get very agitated and maybe a bit angry and it might be better to move away. It's in his eyes.


And maybe that beak. That's a sharp beak.

I'm still city enough that I get excited when I see "wildlife". Know what else is exciting? That this is my children's life.

Since then, I've been more careful about watching the hawks in flight and I've seen some funny things. There are, apparently, two baby hawks. And baby hawks learning to fly are about as dadgum cute (am I country enough yet to say dadgum?) as baby humans learning to walk. Their equivalent of falling is misjudging an air current and having it whip them nearly straight up in the air or not being strong enough to hold them so that they dip wildly before they catch themselves. Watching them practice their killing dive is amazing, especially when they misjudge how close a tree branch or, I don't know, the *ground*, is. Listening to them practice their loud hunting cry is a little bit thrilling.

And my two year old now says "Hawk! Fly!" That makes me smile.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The bean teepee.

This spring I emailed my dad this link and said "I want to build one of these this spring. Wouldn't that be fun for the girls?"

The next time he came to visit he had the wood, the paint, and the string. He got my daughter busy helping him and by the end of his visit we had a teepee set up and staked down (Have I mentioned the wind here? It's strong.).

Here they are priming the wood.


Then painting the next morning.

I had to include two pictures of her painting in her pajamas. She's that cute.

Then we lashed it together.

I always seem to have a lot of help.

Not that I'm complaining.

Grayson didn't help so much as supervise.

Then we stood it up and tried to spread the poles out.

Then we laid it down, re-lashed it a bit looser and tried to set it up again. Then re-lashed it looser. Then we finally were able to get it to stand correctly.

Ignore the undressed child above. She was working hard at keeping those poles apart.

Hey, at least she's not dancing on the pole.

Oh dear.

Here's the finished teepee, staked in. We stuck it near the old grape trellis on a patch of dirt that wasn't growing grass. My husband didn't want it anywhere where it would kill part of the lawn.

It's supposed to end up looking like this:


Here it is last week. It's a bit more full this week, but it still looks nothing like the picture above. That might have something to do with it being placed on a patch of dirt that wasn't growing grass.

Maybe less intensively planted seeds than the picture, very probably less fertilizer, but similar beans.

These are Scarlet Emperor...

and Painted Lady beans.

I could have planted one of several different types of vining plants on this teepee, but I wanted it to be a food plant that the girls could snack on. I didn't account for the fact that, in a child's mind, pretty flowers *right now* are more important than beans to eat later on. Very probably, the only beans that will grow on this teepee will be up higher than they can reach.

But they *are* pretty flowers.

Next year I'll use the same types of beans interspersed with a boring (read: doesn't have pink flowers) variety, plant them a bit more intensively and a bit earlier, and feed them more than I did this year. These beans have done well with what they've been given.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Feeling my oats.

So the oats are harvested now. Eighty-four square feet, a pretty small test plot. I can't tell you how many bushels that gave me since it seems that half of the oats are on the ground and the rest are still attached to the stalk.

Here are some more shots of how they looked after the wind storm. I didn't take pictures of the oats that were flattened.


So I've learned some useful lessons for next year from this.


I expected one of the lessons to be "oats aren't worth it", but as an animal feed, in the weather we had this year (late, wet spring that went a month into "summer"), this was an easy, productive crop.

I'll try it next year to see if it works in a more "normal" weather year. If we get a more normal weather year next year.

Monday, August 25, 2008

No Carrots.

Do you grow carrots? I don't grow carrots. I *try* to grow carrots, but it doesn't usually work out for me.

See, the first time I tried to grow carrots, none germinated. I was told that that's because carrot seeds are a bit more finicky than other garden seeds and they need to have a moist seed bed that gets neither too wet nor too dry. Fair enough.

So the second time I planted them, with my sister living here, I told her what I'd heard. She really wanted carrots. She kept that seed bed so evenly and perfectly moist. I think only five or ten germinated.

Last year I tried a third time. This time I planted it using the Square Foot Gardening method. I planted sixteen squares of sixteen carrots each (I really like carrots). Two hundred and fifty-six carrots I planted, each in its own little square. I watched and watered and weeded. I weeded every little piece of grass that dared to poke its head through. I complained to my husband a few weeks later. "I've babied that seed bed. I've weeded it like crazy. I haven't let a single bit of grass grow, even." He looked at me like I was kidding him and said "Are you being serious?" Of course I was. "Sarah, carrots look like grass when they first come up." Oh sh....oot. I'd never given my carrots the chance to prove themselves. I'd weeded two hundred and fifty-six carrots out of my carefully planted carrot plot. I gave up.

This year, though, my girls wanted carrots. They love carrots more than I do. So I planted carrots and promptly forgot about them, not wanting my heart to get broken again. Weeding two hundred and fifty-six carrots can do that to you. When I went to go weed that garden area, having studiously ignored it for awhile, I was excited to see lots of little carrots coming up.

When they got big enough, I called Hannah over and asked her to "pull one of those plants for me". My girls have grazed on peas, beans, various greens, even flax seeds, from the garden, so I wasn't expecting any problems. Hannah first pulled a little carrot frond off of the outside like she's been taught to do with greens. I told her to pull up the whole plant, root and all, because it was the root she wanted to eat.

She pulled it out and gave it this look...


"You eat the root?" she asks.

Yes, darling, you eat the root. It's a carrot, just like the one you ate a few hours ago that we got at the store. Well, it's not really just like it. It's as fresh as can be with no chemicals on it and not washed. Try it!



"It's not a carrot, Mother. It's much, *much* yummier."



"Oh, this is so yummy. This is the best day ever, eating a carrot like this."

So she liked it.

These are the varieties we tried - Amarillo Yellow and Dragon.



I've always laughed at stories of kids that don't know that milk comes from animals or that the pretty packaged meat in the stores was an animal at one time. I just had a daughter look at a carrot and say "You eat the *root*?" I am ashamed.

On a side note, as a note for next year: More carrots. Try growing them in rows next year and plant some not only for house use but for fodder for animals.

If you successfully grow carrots do you have any advice for me?

On another side note, the title of this post comes from Hannah's current favorite movie, Disney's Sleeping Beauty, when the prince tells his horse "No carrots." Hannah thinks that's a fun thing to tell her pony now.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Quieting the crowing.

These three studs are in my freezer now. I actually contemplated keeping the white one but he was getting too protective of his girls. That's a cullable trait on a farm with small kids.



This manly black and white specimen and all of his brothers are also in my freezer. I used two of them for dinner at a family reunion. It was a surprisingly cathartic experience using chicken meat that I had raised myself. One more step away from the machine.

I harvested ten roosters altogether. The crowing is now down to just a few Buckeye roosters.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How local can you go?

We did pretty well for this one. Not the best, but pretty well. The onion, carrots, and cabbage were from my garden (the cabbage needed to be saved from the *$&%^$* earwigs). The honey is local, the olive oil and vinegar are not.

It's a coleslaw recipe from Trapper Creek's blog. I've never liked coleslaw. The only slaw I had growing up was from Long John Silver's, a fast-food seafood restaurant in northern Oklahoma. A seafood restaurant. In northern Oklahoma. It wasn't good - the seafood or the slaw.

But this slaw... this slaw is *good*. My daughter ate at least a cup full, and for my snacking daughter, that's saying a lot.



So head on over to Trapper Creek's blog and nab the recipe at this post. Trust me. It's worth it. The blog and the recipe. She's a funny lady. My husband's still laughing at her “Objects in the mirror are close to getting backed over, if they don’t quit gesturing like that!” post. I wish I hadn't shown him that post. I could have used it this fall when we help his dad haul hay and I would have sounded so clever. Damn it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

About that wind...

One of the things that I, as a rank beginner, am learning is how to take the information about anything and apply it to my specific situation here.

Case in point - oats. I grew a test plot of oats this year. They grew thick and fast. After reading about all of the different ways I could choose to harvest them, I decided to wait until they were "dead-dry", harvest, and feed them stalk and all to my animals in the winter. This had several benefits, one of which was that I would not need to thresh the oats.

I won't be doing it this way next year - the wind did the threshing for me. In one afternoon. The wind picked up to fifty miles an hour and within a few hours, 70 percent of my oats were on the ground. Lesson learned.

I enjoyed growing them and think that they'll be a good crop for me for several reasons, but next year I'll be harvesting when they are still green.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chickens

Tomorrow night I take my roosters to be harvested. I guess it's time to finally post about my chickens.

Before the chickens arrived, the girls and I worked hard and got homes ready for them. We went and got the necessary supplies - feeders, waterers, lights. (and looked at the store's baby chicks of course)






For housing I was able to snag a few polydome calf hutches for free.



The cat and dog were *very* interested and curious.



The morning that the chicks arrived, the post office called me early. Very early. So I loaded the kids in the car and we went and picked them up.

I told you it was early.


The kids helped me unload the chicks.





So thirsty after the trip.



So tired after the trip.


There were, unfortunately, some issues with the shipment. I was supposed to get 20 straight-run Buckeyes, 10 straight-run Buff Orpingtons, 10 female Ameraucanas, and 10 female Cuckoo Marans. I got all but the Marans. Within three days, all but nine of the Buckeyes were dead. The hatchery was wonderful with both issues - they sent me the Marans the next week and sent me ten more Buckeyes (along with reimbursing me for the dead Buckeyes). After some trouble-shooting in chicken forums, with the hatchery, and on a Buckeye email list, it was decided that, given the symptoms, the only explanation for the massive amount of chick deaths was improper humidity in the incubator for that batch of chicks. It was not a nice way to start my chicken project. I have issues with death. Have I shared that story? I'll have to share that story sometime.

Here we are picking up the second batch of chicks. Ainsley and Grayson went on strike and slept through that trip. Wimps.

Here's Hannah holding a week old Buckeye and a newborn Buckeye.


The hatchery messed up this second order, also, sending straight run Cuckoo Marans. They were great about refunding, but that still doesn't help me with my laying when at least five of my ten birds are boys. Not a big deal this year since I'm not selling eggs yet, but disappointing nonetheless.

The girls have been great about helping me chore. Ainsley loved helping with the waterers. She picks out her own clothes. You never know who you'll need to impress while feeding chicks.


Here are some recent snapshots of my birds.

The chickens in this group are the Ameraucanas. I got the "Easter Eggers", so they're really just mutts, not true Ameraucanas. They look like mutts too. They are *big* birds. At least one, possibly two, of my "female" Ameraucanas are males.


I think that this one is a rooster.


This one is definitely a rooster.




This group is the Cuckoo Marans. Both of these are roosters. You can see the hens in the group shots. They're smaller and much darker. Very aloof birds.



These are the Buff Orpingtons. They have the reputation of being gentle birds, and they live up to it.



These are the Buckeyes. They are the breed that I want to start a breeding flock of. Unfortunately I don't believe that I have a male of breeding quality in my batch this year, so I'll keep the females and see if I get a great rooster next year. If I do, then I'll pick which hens go in the breeding group and which just stay in the egg-laying group.

These birds are much more aggressive (active) feeders - I wish I could have them on pasture right now. They're not at all aggressive around my girls. They're pretty things. Very solid.

This is a group shot of Buckeyes. The one in the front, with his back to the camera is my only light Buckeye. He is noticeably lighter than the other Buckeyes.





And here are just some gratuitous dinner time shots.


Chickens and Desiree watching each other.