Monday, July 30, 2012

Construction Zone

I intended to have a garden when I moved here. I've now lived here almost 6 months. I guess it's better late than never!!

When I moved from Walton, I brought all kinds of stuff, including 18 4 x 4 posts, 5 pressure treated 2 x 6 x 12's, 5 pt 2 x 6 x 8'ts, and 5 2 x 6 x 12 #2 fir boards. They were originally going to be round pen posts, barn rails, and chicken house rafters, respectively. I couldn't leave them behind!

I need raised beds here. The ground here is shattered cap rock, so there's lots of rock surrounded by small amounts of soil (black and kind of sticky when it's wet). The benefit of this is that there are not any ground-dwelling vermin (squirrels, gophers, voles, etc.). However, it makes it booger-all hard to pound t-posts. To move the poultry, I have to lay out the fence (while they're all locked up), and go around with my cordless drill and drill holes for the fence spikes to set it up.

I had started the beds a week ago, but determined that I needed a new saw blade. Armed with that, and cool mornings, I started on them again yesterday. I got 2 of the 3 that I have lumber for completed.
The beginnings

Bed # 1 almost done


and Bed #2
Today, I need to add the wire that will stretch between the middle 4 x 4's (down in the bed, so I won't trip on them!!) which will prevent bowing when filled. When the dump opens, I'll go and get a load (about 2 yds) of compost, which they sell for $7/yard. I also have access to lots of well-composted horse manure, which will be mixed in as well.

I ordered a number of winter-worthy seeds, which have come, including kale, lettuce, beets (I may have one entire bed of beets...), broccoli, carrots and cabbage. I also got a few herbs, which I will try to force in a covered bed. I also ordered two kinds of garlic and some red bunching onions, which haven't come yet - I need to call them and ask them to send them now, as I'm in zone 4/5, and need to get them in now!!

One of the benefits of these beds is that I can add hoops very easily - good thing since I have above ground vermin. I've seen both kinds of rabbit, deer and crows/ravens, all of whom would be very happy to dine at the Cunningham buffet. I'm planning to fence the garden off, but I'm not sure when that will happen, so covering them will solve that problem in the interim.

In other news, I have one Buff Orpington pullet who, when I come out in the morning, is on the outside of the pen. Because I give a good line of scratch for all the birds in the morning, she's racing back and forth along the fence trying to get in to get the goodies. This morning, I went through the usual routine of opening the fence up, herding her back in, but with a twist. I got her into the coop and shut the door. I then got some fingernail polish, caught her and marked her head. Michelle is looking for a couple of young hens, and this is one of them. Michelle has a much more secure arrangement than I have so it will be a perfect fit. She also is interested in an Easter-egger, and I have two to choose from. Behold the mark of shame (left hand pullet, behind her comb):

Some of her compatriots (the lighter of the two Easter-eggers is shown above) are very interested in this mark. Hopefully it will not become a problem such that I have to take it off!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My how they've grown...

This morning I made a couple of decisions. One is that the peafowl need to go. They didn't sit on the eggs they laid, and they're just a little too flighty, regardless of how calmly I enter the pen. Since I'm not getting small peafowl out of them, it doesn't make sense to feed them. Mr. P has just about finished shedding his tail, so I've got that to remember them by.

If I can find a new home for them, I can move the turkeys into their pen, and figure out a way to open it to the other side without too much hassle. I now have 20 turkeys, and I'm debating about keeping some. Yes, I would have to feed them over the winter, but if I only keep a trio (1 tom, 2 hens) or a quad (1:3), it wouldn't be much. I may decide when Thanksgiving is closer that they're just going to be too much trouble and they all go, but I'm kicking it around (again...).

This morning, I went over to give Tang a haircut before our lesson, and picked up feed room leavings, helpfully put in feed sacks that I provide for that purpose. I spread most of it in the peafowl pen (they were climbing the walls, literally), as it was getting a little stinky, but saved one flake of hay for the rest. They had a grand time picking through it looking for the barley heads.

Since two of the Buffs are chronic escapees, I spread scratch to keep the others occupied while I opened the fence - they think this is just awesome. Because I have "mean girls" (the cochin hens), I have to spread a long line of scratch to give everyone plenty of room - with 45 birds vying for the goodies, it's a trick.

If I keep some turkeys, this would be the tom I'm thinking about. He's the biggest bird out there, and very precocious (although a couple of the younger chocolate toms have started displaying too). The only thing that concerns me is that he's very forward... I don't need an attack turkey!

 Both young roos have been trying out their voices. The Cuckoo Maran roo almost has it down, and it sounds like a real crow with his voice breaking like a teenager. Since they originated in France, his name may be Jean Jacques.
The Cochin roo, on the other hand, sort of groans. It's one long tone with a higher inflection in the middle - very funny! Here, he's shown staking out his portion of the scratch by lying down in it.
He's actually quite a nicely conformed Cochin. Very rumpy (their tails aren't supposed to stick up), and nice feathering on his shanks. As they originated in Asia, he may be Mr. Wong.

The other decision has to do with Tang. No, I'm not selling her. I've been working on dressage with her to help supple her up, and get her more responsive. I'll keep doing that for the training benefits, but I think we will both be happier as trail riding partners. This not to say that I won't ask her for leg yields on the trail, or turns on the forehand or haunches... Her salon morning included clipping her bridle path (unconcerned so long as there were cookies in the pan) and banging her tail. I was lying on the barn floor trying to get it level!! I told her, from that lowly position that she'd better not move because I couldn't get out of her way. She did move, but the other way, so I was safe!! I didn't take pictures because she was hot to get back to her breakfast... And really, you can't see the difference except close up.

Next project? Raised beds. I have all the lumber, and some is cut. Tomorrow am, I'll get them cut up and begin assembly.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I went away for awhile, but now I'm back.

Because of my glacially slow internet connection, I just gave up on blogging for the last few months. I ended up having to change mobile service providers, as I wasn't even using ATT's towers from home, only when I was elsewhere. They don't like it when you use more than the allotted mega-bytes of data on someone else's tower - they have to reimburse them. I found out that I was hitting Verizon facilities, and was able to get out of my ATT contract and switch.  I now have a mobile WiFi connection (it's very cool), and it's very fast.

So, I won't bore you with too much, except that the turkeys are getting big (a couple of the toms will be ready way before Thanksgiving...), and the chicken peeps are looking much more chicken-like, and the roo has started experimenting with his voice. The peafowl have decided not to sit on their eggs, so I'm eating them (the eggs).

I've been taking dressage lessons, and have taken Tang. My instructor really likes her, and deems her to have potential. The big news is that I went horse camping over the 4th with Michelle and her family at the annual Adventist Horseman's Association Cowboy Camp Meeting. It was held in the Ochoco Mountains, about 40 miles from home - how could I not go!!

Tang in her pen
 I resurrected an old fence charger that I had for the sheep, which worked marvelously well to keep Tang in. I moved her pen every day so she had fresh grass - she was in heaven!

I also took Lyra, my pit bull; having had to put Harry (the border collie) down 2 weeks before, I didn't want to leave her home. She was pretty good, except that she's not quite ready to step in to the responsibilities of the "Beta" dog in the pack. Consequently, she barked at people alot, protecting me. Since Tang doesn't really care for dogs, I didn't take Lyra with me on rides.

Michelle, Rick (her husband) and I rode together on Friday. It was a little longer ride than we anticipated (about 3 hrs), but Tang did well. Ok, except for the time she bucked and I had a foot and a half of air between me and the saddle and lost my stirrups. Fortunately, she didn't move, so I came right back down where I was supposed to be (in the saddle), and we kept going.
I think we compliment each other!

(some of these pictures were taken by Michelle, so they're different sizes than what I took.)

After that ride, Michelle rode Tang for a bit. She had her doing serpentines, circles, etc., which I have a very difficult time getting her to do. Turns out that my legs don't actually touch her sides below the upper part of my calf. So, I need to work on "connecting" so that she will stay on track. Tang is good at playing the "village idiot" - pretending she doesn't understand what I'm asking, but sometimes she slips, so I'm getting a handle on what she does and doesn't know.

There were lots of flowers, fungi and other interesting things, such as horse-eating cows (according to Tang), deer and creeks (which Tang would have liked to swim in...):
wild violet
fungus amungus (no, I didn't touch it...)

Michelle's family also brought their dogs, Jackson and Dozer:

Lyra and Jackson never really got to where they'd play - he was rather insistent about sniffing and she was being rather insistent about him leaving her alone. Dozer was in Dozer-land, and not participating in the kerfuffle.

I was invited to participate with Rick in singing at one of the meetings. I don't get to sing much, and it was really great to find that I could again. I've been on the dry side for almost a year, and my lungs and breathing are much improved.

When it came time to pack up, Lyra was taking no chances at being left behind:

It was a wonderful weekend - great memories, good fun and now I want to do it again!!