Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fall Chickens

The girls are enjoying fall. After Halloween, I got a good deal on pumpkins and picked up 15 from the ranch down the street. They go through one full pumpkin every couple of days. Here Ruby is up front posing for the camera. Ingrid is in the back and Petunia has her head down digging around for something!

With the leaves finally turning and falling, I've been raking our yard as well as the neighbors' yard. Most of it goes into the garden to compost, but the yellow ginkgo biloba leaves are so soft I've been adding them to the hen house. The girls love digging through them and they're ok for them to eat too.

That's Ruby sitting on a nest here, taking care of business. She isn't nesting, she's just leaving an egg for me. Isn't she beautiful?
Finally, the elusive, egg-laying Petunia caught in the act of producing her second egg! If you look closely you can see the white of an egg under her breast on the left side of the photo.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Winterizing the Hen House

Once the overnight temperatures dropped into the upper 30's, I installed a heat lamp in the hen house again. But it just wasn't making much difference on the inside temperature. So I decided to install some "shutters" on the sides of the hen house. That made a BIG difference, nearly 10 degrees warmer with the heat lamp on (that's the pretty red glow).

I'm sure the girls are much happier now, especially given that last night's overnight temperature dropped to 29 degrees!

Monday, November 22, 2010

First Frost

Well, it's confirmed. We had our first frost this week.
The celery and lima beans are still thriving, but the full-sized tomatoes and green beans were frost bitten. The cherry tomatoes were covered in frost, but aside from some frost bitten, blackened leaves, the fruit seems to be fine.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Big Rain

We've had a couple of misty rains so far, but this is the first big rain of the season, maybe even the biggest in the last 10 years.
It rarely rains enough to even run off the roof!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fall Colors

The leaves have finally started to turn colors. Usually all the trees in the neighborhood change at the same time, but this year they seem to be changing in a wave of color.

We only have 3 trees in our yard, but both of my neighbors have lots of beautiful trees. The red tree is in the neighbors yard. The yellow one is the ginkgo biloba in our front yard. It always seems to change color overnight all at once, then drop the leaves over the next week.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Petunia's First Egg... Finally!

I was beginning to think she might just be too mean to lay eggs. But maybe she was so mean because she was the only one who wasn't laying eggs!

She didn't appear to be nesting the days prior to today and I didn't see any other signs of her preparing to lay an egg. I guess after 9 1/2 months she was just ready to get down to business. When I got home today, there it was.
It's the long, thin white one in between Ruby's (white) and Clara's (brown). Ingrid hasn't laid an egg in nearly 6 weeks, so I don't have one for comparison. She's been moseying through her molting session. Hopefully she's almost finished. Thankfully, she's not naked!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gopher Tracking

Turn around, go back where you came from, and take that camera with you. Can't you see I'm busy tracking a gopher?!

Not long after that, Alice Cat dove into the ivy face first. She still hasn't brought me a gopher. But I'm still hopeful.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beautiful Celery!

These were started from seed. I wasn't even sure they would make it. As the cooler weather started moving in, I started transplanting them from the open garden into the pots so I could move them inside during freezes. Right now, they are residing on the front porch and thriving.
For the last month, the weather has been swinging from hot and dry to cooler and wet. Nightime temperatures range from 36-45 degrees. There are still a few more celery left in the garden to transplant, but there's still time.

It's hard to believe something so big and beautiful grew from such a tiny seed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Run Coyote, Run!

Over the course of 10 days in mid-September my poor chickens were terrorized 4 different times by a coyote salivating in front of their hen house door. I haven't seen that many coyotes in the 10 years that I've been living in this house! The fact that I was seeing some of them as late as 11:00 in the morning was even more unnerving as they usually don't hang around beyond the early dawn.

Knowing that I was actually SEEING this many of them meant to me that there were probably even more instances where I wasn't seeing them, and that concerned me.

I took to the internet in search of a way to discourage coyotes from coming around. I found this site and ordered the CD. It plays various wildcat sounds at varying volumes and intervals. Since the mountain lion and cougar are the coyote's natural enemy, these sounds are  said to be a natural deterrent.
I ordered one, installed it under a bush right next to the hen house, and put it on continuous play. Don't worry, I warned the neighbors! It can definitely give you a jump start when you're outside at night and one of the loud, random sounds comes on out of the blue!

The first time the chickens heard it they just about beat each other up to see who could get in the hen house first! The next few times weren't as dramatic (except for Ingrid, she's a little skittish). Most of them just froze in place until they were sure it was safe to move. After a few days, it didn't phase them at all.

It has been running 6 weeks now and, while I do hear the coyotes in the distance, I haven't seen another one in my yard! If you're having coyote issues I'd say this product is definitely worth a try.

Greeting the Bobcat

Alice Cat was tracking something in the junipers this morning. As I watched her creep up carefully to the juniper bushes, out jumped a bobcat!! It didn't jump out in attack mode, but seemed to be just as curious as Alice was. Alice quickly trotted off to the side of the house. The bobcat followed for a bit then they both quickly disappeared.

At first I thought it was a baby mountain lion, but a little research seems to indicate that it's a full grown bobcat. It was about twice the size of Alice and looked just like the one in this photo:

We don't see wildcats very often, just 3 in the last 10 years.

Not to worry, Alice was back in time for breakfast and all the chickens are still accounted for!

It's always interesting here at Wild Kingdom!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fall is upon us

It's been gradually cooling down and then heating back up over the last month. Nighttime temperatures were consistently dropping to the 50's so I started working with Alice to train her into the cat carrier as "home base". I put a heating blanket inside the bottom of the carrier and covered it with a pillow and towel. I only had to coax her in there once or twice before it became "her space".

Last week it was hot, very hot. But the evenings still dropped to the mid-50's.

This week it cooled WAY down. Tuesday night dropped to around 36 degrees. I covered the cat carrier with a comforter to keep the heat in and installed the heat lamp in the hen house for the chickens. It was only below 40 degrees for two nights. It's already starting to warm up again. The cherry tree had already dropped all it's leaves for winter and has now started blooming again like it's spring!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cleaning the garden & semi-free-ranging

Saturday was a big garden cleanup day. It was time to clear out the tomatoes. Some of the plants were beautiful and green but not producing any fruit. Some of the plants were spent. I pulled most of them out. In the process I found more onions and exposed the beautiful celery plants. I transplanted 4 of the celery plants (I'll post pictures later). The others will have to wait until next weekend.

I found a rogue tomato plant a while back but have had trouble propping it up. I finally untangled it and got it propped up. It's the tall plant in the photo. The stakes only go up to 6 feet, and the tomato plant hangs down several feet. It's still producing an abundance of large cherry tomatoes. I'm harvesting at least a handful a day.

I let the chickens out to roam in the garden while I was working. It's relatively safe since it's completely fenced in and covered in bird netting. They were in hen heaven pulling all the bugs and worms from the rich garden soil, and helping me weed and fertilize, all at the same time!