a hard winter
February 22, 2014, 2:49 pm
Filed under: bees, chickens, farm, gardening | Tags: , , ,

Yep. We’ve all heard it. It’s been a hard winter. I believe it! Luckily for us, we were able to escape for a week. Hawaii. Mmm hmm. We were lucky indeed. We’ve never done that winter sun holiday thing, and yes, it was nice!!!

Now we’re back. And without our constant pressure, the wildlife creeped ever closer. They were hungry.

Hard work for naught

Are you hunrgy enough to eat a garbage can??

Are you kidding me? Someone ate a hole into the garbage can?? We’re not meat eaters. We compost. What the heck was it smelling?


recycle bin

Check it out. It even tried the recycle bin. Guess the yellow plastic doesn’t taste as good as the green?

But then I ventured out to the garden. The fenced garden. I am devastated.


a girdled apple tree

My little espalier apples–girdled. I am so upset I can’t believe it! 4 of six carefully planted, pruned, tended, perhaps they might fruit for the first time this year, apple trees. All that work. Good bye Newtown Pippin, so long Duchess of Oldenburg. Nice seeing you Calville Blanc. Whatevs Golden Russet. Blech. Gardening is too hard.

I took a spin out to the back garden just to see what else had been going wrong. The two trees out there are without damage. Sydney’s disaster–aka the Gala apple tree she knocked over and broke last fall–showed signs of animal gnawing on the smaller limbs which are now on the ground. But the other two seem fine.

I heard some buzzing. I looked down and saw a lone bee on a branch. Over at the hive, some signs of activity. Silly bees. It’s only 50. And it’s surely not spring yet! But nice to see some activity there.


A few hardy bees testing their flight legs

In other news, that hungry raccoon gave me a scare yesterday too. Unlike the possum sighting, this time I screamed! I opened the feed room in the barn. Goats were in the aisle, and chickens were crossing the tundra to the barn for their afternoon scratch and peck. I opened the door and a raccoon scurried over away from me. The lid to the chicken food was off. ARGH!!

I rushed to get the chickens back to their safe house. When I returned he was gone. But he’s still around. He escaped the trap last night, but opened up a few bags of chicken food. Yes, you really need to put all chicken food into metal bins. With lids that can be locked. He was a cute little guy. Not one of those huge ones, but not a tiny one either. Poor guys are so hungry out there!

It’s nice and sunny and warm today, but we hear that winter is coming back this week. Oh Hawaii, yes we miss you already!


the curious way we think of animals

Today Pittsburgh is honoring a lost comrade..in a big way. Rocco the police dog was stabbed in the line of duty and ultimately passed away. He’s getting a big deal funeral, and police from all over the state are attending. People are alternately confused about the expense and trouble, or moved to tears about the story.

I guess I fall into both camps. Definitely moved to tears by the story, but also a bit confused about the big deal from a culture that doesn’t do much normally to honor animals. There was another sad animal story this past week, which was quite horrific. A large “egg farm” caught on fire. No the eggs don’t just produce themselves–there were around 300,000 hens in the barn at the time. Can you imagine? Horrific in death and in life. Apparently this farm keeps 2 MILLION hens. Sheesh. All those little lives. That brings many tears to my eyes.

Especially as I tend to my two spoiled egg laying (sometimes) charges. Knuckles and Bubbles have the cabin fever. They’ve been so cold this winter.

Yo, how's about you turn the heat up?

Yo, how’s about you turn the heat up?

Here they sat one morning last week, up on the roost right under the heat lamps. They were actually shivering! Poor chums. But at 20 degrees they’re ready to party. I head out to the run and they’re at the door waiting to break loose.

It’s very icy on top of the snow, and I can’t actually open the back door of the barn (which I usually leave open so the chickens could return home if they wanted). SO….yes I give them a free ride to the barn (their little chicken heads bobbing, sometimes telling me a tale).

One at a time, I carry them across the frozen yard to the barn, where they can spend the afternoon scratching around in straw and enjoying themselves. Yes I’m that person, some kind of crazy chicken lady. Not sure how it happened, but at 4 pm, you can find me, carrying a chicken back to the coop, hoping that she enjoyed her day out on the town.

I’m happy that a police dog is getting a big fancy funeral. I see lots of changes out there in how we treat our animals. Sure there are many many contradictions in how we do it, but as long as we are generally moving towards a greater appreciation of life, it’s good, right?


happy new year it’s cold out!
January 4, 2014, 8:44 am
Filed under: farm, goats | Tags: , , ,

Here’s some pics from trip to the barn this morning.

that's cold. but supposed to be even colder in a few days.

that’s cold. but supposed to be even colder in a few days.

pretty morning light

pretty morning light

sydney aka polar bear

sydney aka polar bear

need more ice in my bucket!

need more ice in my bucket!

Roppongi doesn’t like the cold so much. She was a little bit shivery this morning, and wouldn’t come out. If she gets worse, we’ll have to pull out her goat coat!

roppongi would not come out

roppongi would not come out

We’re expecting temps to fall to minus 12 on Monday. Yeesh, wish us luck on that one. We’re not in the midwest or Edmonton you know!! We can’t handle it!

musquee de provence pumpkin, you kind of suck!

Sigh. You can’t win them all I guess. Every year, a different way to be disappointed in your garden. While you may have noticed that it was a banner year for pumpkin in our garden, we definitely noticed a big taste difference among our varieties.

Too bad, it was the musquee de provence that was at the bottom of our list. We’d grown this a couple of years ago and liked it just fine. It’s a big girl, 20+ pounds, and the flesh is kind of short stringy. The taste was mild the first time, but this year–BLECH! Don’t know why but it has been super-strong pumpkiny. The kind that dominates a dish, and makes it the last vegetable eaten from the stew, or enchilada or whatever. I’m even to the point of reducing the amounts I include, or adding more spice to cover it up.

On the other hand, we also grew the super cute little Melonette de jaspee vendee pumpkin this year. This is a revelation. Cute, just the right size for a stuffed squash, or a pie. Very mild tasting flesh. Some say eat it raw. And you can. Didn’t do much for me, raw, but you could do it.


sept 21, musquee de provence still far from ripening, but huge!

sept 21, musquee de provence still far from ripening, but huge!

Winter luxury pie pumpkin was the third variety, and it was good. Straight up nice pumpkin flavor good in pumpkins and savory dishes.

sept 21, winter luxury pumpkins doing great but not ripe yet!

sept 21, winter luxury pumpkins doing great but not ripe yet!

All of these were grow in the same area–with lots of compost and mushroom manure.

scale of the assorted pumpkins. you can see some were picked unripe.

scale of the assorted pumpkins. you can see some were picked unripe.

They did really well, and perhaps that was why the taste suffered? The Musquee pumpkins were about 45 pounds! And the Winter Luxury were 8 pounds–both bigger than they should have been. But they just weren’t ripe before that poundage, so what do you do? Can you pick a pumpkin at a size and ripen it off the vine??

spring is coming- chickens on the lay
February 3, 2011, 12:26 pm
Filed under: bubbles, chickens, knuckles, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

After months of few eggs and molty looking chickens, imagine my surprise when i opened the coop door and saw this:

three in a box

The girls have been much happier too. Here’s knuckles being a clownpants:

hey shorty whatcha doin down there

yeah you. i see you!

She’s so cute that knuckles.

And then there’s Bubbles. She’s been very skittish this molty season. Now she’s back to her friendly inquisitive self.

pretty bubbles

the bee condo tower
February 1, 2011, 11:38 am
Filed under: bees | Tags: , ,

When we ordered our cute little 8 frame hives we didn’t really understand what they would end up looking like. They came with two medium body frames and assorted bits and pieces, that when assembled, looked like this:

sweet little garden hives

painted and installed

Then over the summer we started adding pieces as the girls moved in and spread out. Here’s what the towers look like as of Dec. 31. The day was nice and warm and people took the opportunity to fly out and about.

super towers and windblocks

It was great to see that folks were still alive. They were out buzzing about and seemed kind of dazed, just circling about. Doing cleansing flights I suppose.

I knocked on the hives the other day. Slight buzzing in there. I hope they’re doing ok. The lower hive–Louis, has some bees that crawled through a crack in between level one and two–and died there. So sad. We put some duct tape over the crack. Not necessary I’m sure, but there you go.

The hive components–bottom two are mediums that the set came with. Then we got a deep–that’s full of honey. And one empty (no frames) medium. This allows us to put baggies of food in there. Must remember to get medium foundation this spring and probably some extra frames. I sure hope they make it through the winter.

everybody needs to eat
January 14, 2011, 12:25 pm
Filed under: farm | Tags: , , , , , ,

This morning we saw some pretty disgruntled looking deer walking across the yard. Well wading was more like it. Poor guys. There’s a lot of snow out there. And not much to eat. So you need to get what you can.

well what the heck is going on here?

Right around where poor bubbles lost her tail, I saw this. Whatever it was it wasn’t going anywhere. It just kept on eating. I can’t tell what kind of bird was caught, but today, this poor little hawk–a juvenile–is having a good chowdown.

UPDATE: yep it was a robin. poor little guy. A couple of feathers is all that’s left. Mom confirmed that they are pretty easy pickings. She surmised that they must be poor fliers with bad eyesight or something.