Tag Archives: summer

Outdoor Adventure Silkies

 No one expresses the joy of summer quite like the Silkies.  They sunbathe hard. 

 A bunch of white snowballs wriggling in the dirt or spread out flat like they´ve deflated.

Or for variety, going for a hike.

Sometimes the red hens get right  in there too for a bath.

What I wonder is, songbirds take exuberant baths in puddles all the time.  Chickens are birds.  Why don´t they like the water?

The biggest Silkie news is that the oil of oregano treatment is totally the cure for Scaly Leg Mite! So exciting!  I´ve got a few drops of oil of oregano in a bottle, and I shake that vigorously, and pour some of the mix in their water dish, not even every day, just enough to get a bit of a rainbow on their water.  Their legs and feet are obviously so much better, although I haven´t been doing Vaseline treatments.   Just the oil of oregano, or OOO, as I call it.  I´ve got plenty around for human health; now recommended for chicken feet health.  The layer hens have entirely cleared up – their feet look so good now, and I´m sure the Brahmas will respond too.

Another hen is boxed, with more pretty blue eggs.  Broody 2, 2017.  I have a special variety of hairless chicken that seems to go broody first.  I don´t know if broodiness goes with molting or not – do they need the long break of setting to reset themselves and regrow after a molt?

Hens are usually pleased to go in the box, and get their private trough.  This one is just attacking the food.  I of course provide a buffet during their confinement; in the wild they would be able to pop out for a snack when they got peckish but not so in the box.

There is an important rule though: Thou shalt know the difference between sloth and broodiness.

They might be doing this:

They might be in there all day.  They might slam their wings down and growl if you try to take eggs, but they may not be broody.  They might be laying an egg, or just thinking about it.

I was impatient to set someone on eggs and boxed one I thought was broody – she was NOT.  She was pleased at first with the snack, but upon finding herself trapped, she loudly registered her outrage, drawing the Colonel to pace at the screen door,  and effected a dramatic eruption out of the box, after kicking all the eggs around.  A broody will be thrilled to have eggs, and keep them in a tidy group.

So I´m waiting for one to turn.  They´re just having too much fun outdoors right now to think about motherhood.

New bee boxes

I’ve been assembling  bee supers and frames.  They look so nice, all fresh.

The idea is that if the bees are ready to swarm this year (so far they are thriving and vital, so I’m hoping for the best), that there will be a move-in-ready apartment conveniently right next door!

My idea is to leave the bottom super empty, maybe a couple frames in the top box, to be spacious like a swarm box.  Since I haven’t built a swarm box yet, I need to build supers anyway, and I want to have something ready in the event of a sudden swarm, then this is a better-than-nothing measure.

I was assembling frames in my tiny camper, and stocking them outside, when the robber bees arrived.  They were doing their nervous, zigzag robber bee thing, investigating the new wax frames with enthusiasm.

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More and more bees arrived (they were uncannily camera shy though).  I started to get nervous, and promptly put up a box in the field for them to inspect.

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Immediate investigation

They haven’t made any moves on it, but they know it’s there.

This has been such a drab, cold!, protracted spring, that there hasn’t been a day warm enough for me to make a full hive inspection.  I feel like I should.  I am heartened that it takes a long time to find a Varroa mite on the bottom board, they are sucking back the syrup I give them, and they have at least doubled last year’s numbers, judging by the comings and goings.  So far they seem to be caring for themselves quite well.  I hope I can give them a third super in time.

Solar granola

We’ve been making a steady supply of granola in the wonderful Sun Oven.

This stems from a compound realization:  1. We both like granola.  A lot.  We eat it very often.  In spite of the risk of being called granolas.  2. It’s bloody expensive!  Analyzing monthly expenditures turned up an alarming number on bulk granola.  Oh, but it’s so good!  Can’t stop! (see #1).   3.  Rolled oats- not so much.  Very cheap, or relatively so for these days. Really, it beggars belief how much the price for an oat can inflate if you drip some sugar on it and toast it.

We can make it ourselves!

So we’ve been mixing up big batches of granola and toasting by the panful on sunny days, which have arrived in abundance in April.

Our granola kicks a** on the granola we used to buy, and HW even muses that what makes it really special is he can “taste the sun in it”.  We won’t be going back.  Making enough to last through the winter might be a challenge…hmmm.

Our recipe:

(we usu do twice this much at a time, and amounts are approximate, but this is the basic)

  • 3 cups oats
  • Cinnamon, and often the usual pumpkin pie culprits- nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
  • Dash of salt
  • Optional 1/2 cup of some deluxe optional additions, like sliced almonds, pecan pieces, hazelnuts, flax seeds or pumpkin seeds; finely chopped dried pineapple, or candied ginger, or dried strawberries.  This is what adds the wow!

These are the dry ingredients.  Stir ’em up.

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • Splash of maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsps brown sugar
  • 1 Tsp vanilla

These are the liquids.  Heat them, together, and drizzle them over the dry while rapidly tumbling the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon.

Bake.  Normally this might say 15 min at 350F? or some such.  It’s about twenty minutes in the sun oven, and then stir it up and leave it another 10-15.  Watch the oven!  If it gets to dark brown, it could be just fine with milk, but there might be too much sun in it.

 

 

Got mange?

2015-07-09 15.05.39Smokey’s got a funny thing going on.  His undercoat hairs are trying to fall out/shed, but only in one spot, on each side.  The guard hairs are fine and shorter there, and you can feel his skin right underneath them, as opposed to somewhere deep under a thick fur blanket.

The ground hairs come out in clumps with the brush – but only in these two spots, each side of his hips.  Elsewhere they resist coming out. It gives him a funny, patchy look, like he’s got mange.

Maybe by the end of summer he will have lightened his coat, just in time to grow it again.  He’s such a hot dog in the hot summer, always slinking into the shade and sprawling out.  When HW rousts him out for more walking around, he gives us the aggrieved Must I? Really? gaze.

Everything’s up.

This is the grape vine on the barn, earlier this year

Today or yesterday, everything popped the surface in the garden.  Peas, beans, radishes, clover-esque kale sprouts, tiny blades of beet leaves and green hairs of carrots.  The onions are charging away.  So satisfying.  They made it!  Wasn’t too rainy for the beans, or too exposed for the carrots.

I haven’t been too ambitious.  I had a lot of unassigned garden space that I bought random starts for at the garden supply, chosen by what interested me.  A cucumber, and celery, which I consider exotic, and two watermelon plants that are a flight of fancy.  I have high hopes, though, and they are looking transparently plump with water and thickly endowed with white prickle hairs.  They look like happy watermelon plants.

The hay mulch is introducing grass by seed, but the tiny grass seedlings are the most vulnerable sprouts of all, easily swept away, totally unlike the rhizome-rooted counterparts that look innocuous when young and tiny, but are really just the surfacing tip of a diabolical rampaging root system.

What Ozone Layer?

There are birdhouses everywhere around this place.  Scattered about, picturesquely decrepit.I can’t understand this phenomenon.  Sunburn? What’s that?  After two hours?  WTF?  Not me.  I think I’ve only been sunburned enough to peel three times ever, and all of those involved all day stints in the sun, so ten hours or more of exposure.  For me to burn in a morning is unheard of, and I’m not adjusting well.  Is it my aging skin or the thinning atmospheric membrane?

Wearing sleeves and pants all day?  Are you serious, I can’t wear shorts for consecutive days?  Yet, here I am, only three days into a sunny period, and my skin has that reddish tone of brown and slight tenderness and there’s a telltale sun headache to close the case.  I suppose this means I should make friends with sunscreen.  I’ll start by getting some.

What I have instituted is the midday sun siesta.  It should be a social habit spreading across the latitudes as the ozone layer retreats.  Doesn’t Australia do this already, shut down outdoor work at midday?   It’s necessary to hide from the sun between noon and 3, or more ideally 11 til 4.  It’s nice to retreat indoors after some five or six hours of morning work, eat some food, read a little, write a little, and maybe nap or take a solar shower.

These days, I also hydrate my cat and sit with her as she lies in some discomfort, staring and resigned as her body slowly redistributes the cup full of fluid that makes a flabby pouch under her “arm”.  She’s very good at siesta.  It may have something to do with wearing a chic fur coat all summer that she can’t take off.

"I'm wilting on the floor here"Speaking of, I just moved the camper into the shadow of the barn because Kev was letting me know it was so hot, she’s gonna keel over.  Ahhh, shade.  I don’t have the same view.  Now I open the door into the barn door- nothing like waking up to your work- but this will help us survive until we get some insulation between us and the sun.

Et voila

She’s planted.  I had to turn the whole thing by hand once more, to decompress any areas smushed by my walking around on it during tilling, then raked it all out.  It’s so pretty!  I’m very proud.  I took the picture before mulching it, because I think it’s not as presentable after mulching.  I really like the “earthy palette” of brown smoothed dirt with the tender green of seedlings.  Mulch just makes the whole thing look like an unusually well groomed haystack.

Lettuce starts were totally psychological.  “Oh look, its as though something’s already growing.”  Tomato starts were necessary.  Mine are too late and spindly to finish this summer and will end up in the greenhouse.  Putting something in    that’s already above ground makes it feel like a real garden.

It feels so late in the year, but when I got my potatoes in the ground the day before the market gardener on the next road who’s lived here for 40 years, well, I can’t be that far wrong.

Mulching.  So satisfying in one way, tucking in the vulnerable dirt to conserve its moisture and making little nests around the tiny sunflower seedlings that will become wrist-sized  stalks.  On the other hand, it’s an awful lot of hay to move, and it’s not esthetically pleasing.

Popular wisdom says not to use only straw and never hay for mulching, because it’s full of seeds.  Mogi says that if feed hay has gone to seed, then it has no nutritional value, so it’s always mowed and baled before it goes to seed.  I’m looking at:  buy straw, or use the giant, growing pile of dry, yellowing reject hay that Mucky has eaten what he wanted of and left to dry on the ground.  It’s practically in unlimited supply, all this quality mulch.  There are some seeds in it.  I can see them.  What I’m more worried about is introducing moulds or mildews, but there’s one way to find out.  Time will tell.

In other news I had a rather dazzlingly productive day, from 6am to 7pm.  I would’ve kept going- I’ve proved it only gets too dark to see in the garden at 10pm – but for the UFC fight.  I was on way too much of a tear to bother with any before pictures, but I’m systematically working my way through the  todo list in the order of how much they drive me crazy, rather than how important they are.  Thus I’m transporting rubble, dismantling poorly designed fences and reframing gates that have bad feng shui before getting the squashes into their patch.

I just couldn’t do it any other way.  Every glance at that absurd garden gate tilting over at a completely charmless 20 degree angle the way it’s probably stood for ten years fills me with a bilious, primal drive to change it, and tearing the whole thing down gives me an inner smile of peace that is far more satisfying than the squash plot.  The pumpkins have to wait,  that’s all there is to it.