Sunday, May 24, 2009

Poultry Update

Tweedit, our guinea hen, has been patiently setting on her nest out front since the middle of April. It's way past time for them to have hatched though. So a few days ago, when she was off the nest to eat, we picked up the eggs. She came back to the nest and was calling the rest of the afternoon, but that evening Aries went out front and walked her back down to the coop and she went right in. All three guineas are now flocking together once again.

For the last three years, both Tweedit and Missus have brought in clutches, but it's looking like no keets this year. Missus is Grey's mate (that's Grey, above, in defensive papa mode); Tweedit was the only survivor from Missus' first clutch, hatched in late September four years ago. This Spring, our neighbor found Missus' nest in his shed and threw all her eggs away. They each might lay and set on another clutch late in the summer, but it's hard to raise the babies when the weather starts getting colder so if we catch them at it we'll clean out the nests too.

The chickens are now spending their days inside the pen instead of free-ranging. It's easier to find all the eggs (9-12 a day now) when they're in the nest boxes, and it saves a lot of destruction to my landscaping. PheasantFace and Junior have been flying out, but they've pretty much stayed out of the flower beds and the garden, and are both laying in one spot up by the garage, so I haven't tried to clip their wings. The guineas fly out first thing in the morning, but they prefer to range out in the sagebrush. Last year's hens, the ones raised with Coach, our bantam rooster, are looking pretty rough. He's been getting on them so much he's taken most of the feathers off their backs. I saw an ad in a poultry magazine for little protective chicken jacket/vests that fit across their backs and then velcro around their chests. I might have to make some for Coach's girls if he doesn't let their feathers grow back.

This year's new girls, Flopsy and Mopsy the Buff Orpingtons, and Cottontail and Penny the Red Stars, have now adjusted to life in the coop. They're lowest in the pecking order, so they're always on the move, staying out of everyone's way. They're the last ones in at night - taking advantage of everyone else going in to get an extra bit of food from the feed box.

We have a routine around here. Aries gets up early, so he goes down to the coop to open it up in the morning. We'll often let the flock out to free-range a bit in the evening, and then I'm the one that makes sure everyone is back inside before closing it up for the night. Last week, Aries had gone to work and I was sitting out on the deck later. I could hear Coach crowing non-stop, one right after another. Finally, I went down there to see what was going on. Aries had forgotten to open up the coop that morning. Everyone came piling out when I opened the door, and since the guineas were bullying everyone away from the food and water I went ahead and opened the pen gate too.

As I started back up to the house, I called to Boris, our hound dog, to get away from the nest box hatches and follow me. He wouldn't, despite my yelling at him to leave the chickens alone. He still just stood staring at the nest boxes, so I went back down to see what was so interesting that he wouldn't leave. One of the little Buffys was standing in the lower nest box - I figured she must have been hiding out from everyone, trapped inside the coop like that. But she wouldn't come out when I opened up the hatch - I had to get down and pick her up and set her outside. When I did, I noticed Cottontail had wedged herself headfirst in between the nest box and the wall, with the tip of one wing up around the edge of the box. Poor thing!

I managed to get her wing back next to her body, and then had to get inside the coop and crawl under the roosts to get my hand back in there to where she was. I had to reach underneath her to lift her up enough to pull her back out of there. If her feet touched the ground, as soon as I'd get her a bit backward she'd try to push forward again. I finally got her up and out, but her wing got scraped up pulling her backwards out of there. So I took her in the house to check her over, spraying liquid bandage over the scraped wing to protect it until it could heal. Within an hour she was out with her buddies like nothing had happened. I'm just glad Coach, Flopsy or Mopsy, and Boris made sure I noticed something was wrong.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Where Have I Been?

After spending a week visiting Mom in Colorado, without computer access, I got back with one day to myself. I spent Friday doing laundry, a bit of grocery shopping, catching up on mail, and writing about tomato problems for my turn on the Simple Green Frugal Co-op.

Saturday, I was up and out the door early enough to catch a hot-air balloon trying to land north of the garage. I was headed over to pick up Donna and then we were going to work a display booth for Muscle Powered in the Health Fair section of the Oodles of Noodles street fair in Dayton, Nevada - about 20 miles east.

May is Bike Month, and Muscle Powered had put together lots of events the following week for Bike to Work Week, so it was perfect timing to get the word out to lots of people. Probably not everyone has to contend with our afternoon winds - the Washoe Zephyr - but if you're putting together an outside information booth you might take note of my bungee cord set-up. Originally an idea from my mom for restraining a camping tablecloth, it works really well for keeping handouts in place and still easily available. Large bungee cords are wrapped width-wise around the display table and hooked together underneath. During a wet Earth Day street fair a few years ago, I had a piece of clear plastic the same size as the table I just tucked under the end bungees. Items were visible and it was easy to just reach underneath the plastic to pick up anything. It sure beats chasing litter down the street.

Sunday morning I was up even earlier. I spent the next six days working the early-early morning to mid-afternoon shift as a shuttle coordinator for the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in Reno. The tourism destination management company I work on-call for was manning all shuttle bus pick-up areas, back and forth from the hotels to the convention center from 5:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. plus all outside tours. The sagging economy and the proliferation of Tribal Casinos in California means tourism has really dropped in my area, so I was glad to get the chance to pick up some hours.

According to our pre-Fair briefing, about 1,600 high school students from 50 countries participated. Counting parents, teachers, and judges, around 6,000 people stayed the week. Four million dollars in scholarships were awarded. About 20% of the kids already have patents on their projects and inventions (I was talking to one of the judges - lots of major corporations send representatives to this fair. I was thinking "how nice, they're looking to recruit these kids when they get out of school." Wrong - they're there to steal ideas - thus the need for patents).

After a long week, I got home Friday just in time to get my things together for a weekend on Lake Tahoe's north shore.

Our friends own a time-share in a little resort up there. It's a funky little place - this building was originally built in the late 1950's as athlete housing for the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, plus little old-Tahoe cabins. The time-share management hosts a pre-summer season work weekend - feeding us on Saturday and Sunday in exchange for work raking the beach, painting, flower planting, and various other fix-up chores. My friends often attend, and this year had reserved a two-bedroom unit so asked if I'd like to go with them (Aries was working until Sunday).

I rode with Larry to pick up Krista at the airport in Reno that evening, and then up to North Shore via the Mount Rose Highway. The summit of the two-lane road between Reno and Tahoe is almost 9,000 feet. The ski areas are all closed for the season, but there was still snow in the trees alongside the road and covering the mountains above. We had a nice dinner out in Tahoe City, and I spent all day Saturday and then Sunday morning setting out annual flowers and working on the landscaping.

Aries came up Sunday morning on his motorcycle. He pitched in working for a while too. He brought my helmet and jacket, so after lunch I let our friends take my things back to Carson and Aries and I took the long way home. We went west and then south around the Lake, stopped for a while above Emerald Bay, and from South Shore headed south away from the Lake over Luther Pass. At Hope Valley, we turned east to head down the canyon. At the bottom, as we came around the corner from the canyon out onto the sagebrush valley, the temperature increased a good 20 degrees - it was over 90F! I was so glad I'd missed most of the heat up in the mountains all weekend. And glad to finally have some time at home again too! I've had lots of things to catch up on around the house and out in the garden - more on that later.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Home Again

Miss me? I've missed all of you. I just spent a week in Denver visiting my Mom. She doesn't (didn't, anyway) have internet access, so my only time online was a couple of 15-minute sessions at the local library - just long enough to check my email. But all five of us siblings (I also have a Colorado Brother and a California Brother) had pitched in together and bought Mom a new laptop for Mother's Day. Colorado Sister lives near Mom, and California Sister flew in for a visit the same day I flew out, and she brought the new laptop (and even put together a personalized how-to manual). So in between our flights we three sisters went to lunch with Mom and gave her her present - with a new email address already set up for her and all her contacts notified. California Sister will spend her time there getting Mom's new internet access all set up and give her some internet lessons. I think she'll really enjoy it once she learns how to maneuver in cyberspace (and that means there will be home internet access next time I visit).

It was a wonderful little get-away for me - the perfect little space on my calendar, spent just hanging out with Mom and Colorado Sis. I walked with Mom when she played in her 9-hole golf league one day (great view of Red Rocks Amphitheater from a high point on the golf course - top tiers of the seats visible between the two big rocks on the left, Lookout Mountain beyond),

and spent another day with my sister out geocaching up on Lookout Mountain (even nicer view of the Rockies from the parking lot for Buffalo Bill's grave).

Now I'm back home again, with bunches of things to do in the garden and my calendar booked solid for the next two weeks. The lilacs are in bloom, and so are the last of the fruit trees - the apples and the pie cherry. The netting is still intact over the garden, and my peas and lettuces are coming up. Guinea Tweedit is still sitting on her nest out front - I haven't heard any peeping out there yet, but it should be any day now. It was my day to post on the SGF Co-op blog. My Colorado Sister has had problems with blossom-end rot on her tomatoes, so I thought I'd write about Troubleshooting Tomatoes for her over there. And with that, I think I've done enough writing for today.