Fall is here

After a terribly dry summer, the temperature suddenly dropped and it seems fall is here; the hot days are gone.

Week after week this summer the weather reports have been tantalizingly forecasting possible showers, but those much-talked-about teasers always vanish the day before they happen into the blazing sun icon – again – a whole row of full suns, week after week.

The apples are small, the grass is dry, we’ve already had a frost, and now, the weather has shifted into the third season and is plotting a course of decreasing temperatures – signalling to all that the last push of work – the last chance to do it, is on.

It’s time for toques in the morning – wardrobe change!

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Eggplant

This is my favorite way (pretty much, only way) to prepare eggplant.

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Eggplant sliced a 1/2 inch thick, sliced fresh tomatoes, and grated or sliced cheese.  Grind black pepper liberally (I added sliced green olives to this batch).   Hose down with olive oil and bake until the cheese bubbles.

Really, it’s like mini-pizzas with eggplant for the “crust”.

Finally rain!

Real rain.  45mm!  We’ve had a handful of sprinkles in August, just enough to dampen the crust, but scratch the surface and it’s dry dry dry for inches.  Our wells are dry, but our caught rainwater is keeping up with our drinking needs.  Nothing can be watered – only the greenhouse gets our grey water, and it is holding out surprisingly well.

But now, real rain!  All the barrels are full!

Guineas in the greenhouse

The guineas are growing like weeds.

I’ve put them in the greenhouse to run wild, since they outgrew the chickery in about a week.

They let me know they were ready to move up in the world by escaping from the chickery.  How they did so was and remains a complete mystery, because the chickery is covered with a piece of nylon bird mesh tacked down on the four corners.

First, there was one bird walking around on the outside.  Then  there was two.  Three.  Then there were three perching on the top edge, all on the wrong side of the mesh, mesh still intact.  Is mystery!  Like Houdini.

Since this willy-nilly mystery escape is not safe for them – they do not seem as adept at getting back in, and they could get in trouble not being able to reach water or food.

So I set them free in the greenhouse. 864 square feet to play Wild Jungle Fowl in.  When I first released them they were so funny, running with their necks stuck out, all of them chirping excitedly BurBURburBURburBURburBUR!20160926_083921

They travel in a dense little pack, like a school of fish, always tightly together.

They can fly too!  They have big old wings already, and have taken confident flight off of my hand.


At night, I’ve been stowing them in with the broody hen I tried and failed to adopt them to.  She’s boxed up, on her eggs, and at night I bring the guineas, drop them in the box and they snuggle up around her, or hide in the corner of her box under her butt.

Surrogate mom is surprisingly tolerant.  The first couple days she growled at the evening introduction, but in a couple days, it turned to a (resigned?) greeting purr.  The chicks would cheep anxiously about the trip in the box, she’d purr reassuringly, and in less than 20 seconds, silence had fallen.

In the morning she’s ready to get rid of them though.  They are full of beans and sprint around the box shrieking, running laps that run right over her back.  They perch on her back too, sometimes two at a time.  She seems pleased to see them go then.  She never moves off her eggs.

I was plucking birds out from her broody box one morning and one chick ran to her, thrust his head (only his head) under her wing, and froze.  Can’t see me!

Since moving them into the greenhouse from the chickery, the chicks are harder to find at night.

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Cornered!

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The greenhouse is a multilevel jungle of tomatoes creeping across the top, and squashes growing in all directions.  At night, they find a big squash leaf on the floor and all pile up under it, totally hidden.

Unlike chickens, they find a new place to sleep every night, so I have to poke around looking under the big umbrella leaves.


It’s like having ghosts in the greenhouse.  When we go in there we might see them at work, but when they see us they all dart away.  One was so busy picking bugs off the underside of a leaf it didn’t see the others depart and I got right up to it.  EEEEEP!  It shrieked and raced away.

If you stay in there longer, you’ll see them slowly work their way through a perimeter sweep, or hopping up to reach the kale leaves.

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Zoom zoom!

You’ll hear them cheeping around, but turn around and you might see a shadow scuttle by behind the tomatoes.  They are so funny!  Always in a little huddle.  SO FAST!  They streak around, their bodies stable and little orange legs ticking like a chihuahua, necks long and bright orange beaks stuck out.

When they get separated from the pack, even a little distance, they make a sound like a very small car alarm, and the pack shouts back a softer sound, until they’re reunited.  I experimented with this.  I was trying to teach them to go in the broody box by themselves at night, so I cut a door in it.  Poked them all out through the door in the morning.

In the evening, but before it was dark enough for them to have settled down completely, I started to encourage them towards the box, or at least that end of the greenhouse.  I grabbed a couple and put them in the box (happy cheeping).  The rest did the car alarm sound, then stopped to listen.  Cozy, subdued response cheeps.  The outside chicks listened to where the others were, then set off at a run, and ran right past the box with the door in it.

Then they stopped, shrieked, listened, and sure they knew now where the others were, ran back the other direction, right past the door in the box.  I caught a couple more and put them in the box (more happy cheeping).  They go right to sleep cuddled up to the big cozy hen.

The back and forth car alarming, listening, and running past the box continued.  They never got it.  I had to catch each one and put them in the box.  They didn’t figure out the door from the inside either.   Although they failed this IQ test,  in other ways they seem very clever.  They are extremely difficult to catch.


HW has taken to calling them the Africans.  To distinguish them from all the other chicks floating around.  The teenagers, the smaller chicks, the new chicks, and the Africans.  There’re several series running around right now.

In the morning they have a favorite spot on the Southeast corner of the greenhouse, and to get there they have to climb up the hay bales and the squash vines climbing up them, and they perch on the vines or cuddle up in a pile in the first sunbeam on top of the hay.  They’re up there, at eye level, when you first come in the door, relaxed in their fort and returning the gaze.

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Gatekeeper

We have a gate on our driveway.  Our driveway passes right through the ancient orchard, and apples drop all over the roadway.  One big branch arches over the road laden with lots of apples, but tiny ones- small because of the drought.

We drive through the gate almost every day.  Almost every day these days, the gate is decorated.20160913_085943

There’s a chipmunk that thinks the gate is the best snack spot ever, and he leaves multiple partially chewed apples balancing on the edge of the boards that make the swinging gate, or on top of the post that anchors it.

Even funnier, there will be an apple with some chews, then later less of the same apple, still later mostly an apple core, balanced in the same spot.

Sometimes, we even drive up and see the chipmunk hugging his apple on his perch.  Eeep!  He leaves his apple behind, rocking like a nicked bowling pin,  and darts away, tail straight up.

Other chipmunks in our life

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Super weird insect thing of the day

I hardly knew what I was seeing at first, but it was an insect of unknown type wrapped in a thick parka of small pink spider-like attack insects.

She fell into a piece of flashing I was using, and even with this load of hitchhikers, she was walking around and desperately trying to scrape the offenders off her head with her forelegs.

A bad day for this insect.

20160903_145741 I tried to interfere.  I dropped it in some water, imagining that the small attackers would release their prey under the greater threat.

No.   It just made the situation worse for the beetle, who was now swimming for her already beseiged life.  The attackers were totally unperturbed.

I tried scraping them off with my finger, and got enough off to briefly see it was an orange and black beetle, a kind I see all the time.

The scraped off bugs just surged back with the speed of ball bearings rolling toward a magnet.  They were unstoppable.  And fast.

I let her go in some grass and she was last seen apparently trying to bury herself.

So strange!

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Limpy

I have a handicapped chicken.  I’ve no idea what’s wrong with her, but her right leg doesn’t support her weight.  She hops and tries to step on her right leg but it collapses under her.  I’ve grabbed her for inspection, and she happily hangs out in the football hold while I inspect her leg.  I’ve gone all over her foot for slivers, and massaged all up her leg, but she doesn’t ever flinch, just sternly watches me palpating her stuck-out leg.

The first couple days she stayed in or right next to the coop, and then she roamed a little farther, but not all the way to our house like the flock goes every day.  She seems to not want to get too far from the coop. I’ve had to put bowls of water in the woods in her range.  It’s tricky to leave food out where she will find it before all the other chickens do.

She doesn’t seem to be in any pain, but she’s obviously limited and subdued.  She’s got that injured animal wariness, hiding herself in the brush.  It’s a mystery what is going on for her if there’s nothing she winces at, but she can’t walk on it.

—-

I had another chicken die.  No known cause, but she was an old chicken, one of the original set.  I was getting eggs out of the coop and she was in there, and she didn’t skedaddle indignantly like they usually do.  I moved her aside, and she settled down like she was going to rest a bit more.

I checked on her a little later and she was still there.  I stroked her head and back (a dead giveaway that she wasn’t feeling well).  Her upside down lids closed and she fell asleep while I pet her.

I checked on her in an hour and she had tucked her head under her wing and died:(