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Monday, August 8, 2016

Summer's here

Okay, time for cute pictures of the dog.  As you can see, she sleeps a lot (she's asleep right now in the chair beside me).  When not asleep, she enjoys chewing on empty soda bottles.  As you can tell, the dog has TEETH!  Yorkies have remarkably large teeth for their size!

This spring we had a couple of heavy rains and flooding.  This was followed by almost no rain in July.  It's been hot—today it's 93 degrees.  So far the evaporative cooler has been able to keep up most days.  We do have a window air conditioner in case the swamp cooler malfunctions or can't keep up, but other than when the pump basket clogged off (that happens from time to time) and when it was hot day after day and I had to close the curtains and hang blankets for a couple of days, we've been okay with the cooler.

My garden is hanging in there, in spite of the heat.  Earwigs are another story.  Looks like I'm going to have to powder the corn and so forth if I want to kill them.  I've drown tons of them by putting down wet sheets at night and then throwing the sheets into a bucket of soapy water, but I can't kill enough to make a dent, it seems.  I've gotten peas, the beans are almost ready and the tomatoes have tiny tomatoes forming.  I also say a small zuchinni.  I can't eat fried zuchinni yet because I have no bottom teeth, but it's good for other dishes.

The ducks hatched a couple of batches of ducklings.  "Mama" hatched three babies around June 7th, then "Broody" hatched ten on the 26th of July.  All three of Mama's are alive and one, the drake, is larger than she is now!  So far, six of the ten Boody had are still alive.  I added shade, a shallow water  dish and a food dish to see if that helps keep the remaining six alive.  It has been so very hot for the ducks.  Broody is often seen panting and the babies spend much of day inside their house.  We let some ducks out one day and others the next.  Otherwise, they tend to fight each other.  We now have one duck per cage, except the mature drake and one hen are housed together.  This is much easier than trying to keep all six together.  When the hens go broody, fights erupt often and I was tired of fighting ducks.  So, they have their own little "happy places" and harmony rules!

These are two of the nighthawks that fly around during the day eating mosquitoes and other insects.  There are five altogether.  They do a good job of keeping the flying insect population down and they're fun to watch!  

That's it for this post.  More later.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

It's now May 1st, though with the weather, you'd never know it.  We have had snow three times in April, once nearly a foot.  I had been putting my garden plants out in my portable greenhouse until the snow started!
What happened to spring?????
Deer in snow

Duck pen covered in snow

Actually kind of pretty!

This year the duck pen survived the snow, in part because I had redone the top and tied everything together and in part because we knocked as much snow off as possible.  The dusk are doing fine.  Two are brooding—well, kind of three.  The one we call Broody who hatched a bunch of babies last year has been sitting for over three weeks.  Then there are two sitting in another pen.  They both sit on the eggs, at the same time.  We had a third duck in there, but fights broke out, so she's now in the greenhouse at night until it dries out and I can put in another divider.  If anymore fights break out, whoever is fighting is on their own outside the pens.  I have no more room.  Or said duck gets a room in the freezer.  Muscovies are interesting ducks, but they do have a lot of interpersonal disputes.

The daffodils were blooming, but I had to bring them in when it got cold.  There are more getting ready to bloom soon.  Weather is forecast to hit 78F by Thursday.  It has been a roller coaster here for about two months.  Still hoping for spring soon!

These are the additional duck houses.  We started putting them outside the pens with just an opening into them because the ducks don't make as much of a mess.  All are hinged on the back for easy removal of eggs and bedding.  We are learning ways to make the duck keeping easier as we go along.

This is my makeshift greenhouse.  I put the small, portable one out by the corner of the house for hardening off my plants.  The plants are doing well.  Some of the tomato plants are over six inches tall.  Last year at this time, my plants barely had their second leaves.

Lastly, it's Sasha doing what she does best—sleeping!

That's all for now!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

It's already March

Seems like things just keep getting in the way of updating blogs.  My teeth and mouth are a constant source of distraction, what with dental visits and so forth.  Hopefully, that's over soon.

Sasha is doing very well.  Cute little critter, we think anyway.   She's all of 3 1/2 pounds but very sturdy for such a small dog.  She likes to jump from chairs onto the dining room table and then jump off when caught standing on the table.  The chairs now stay pushed up so she can't do that!  Sasha is also confined to walking on a leash because she just can't resist bunny chasing, right through the fence.  While she has learned sit, stay and off fairly well, stop or come is not yet in her list of accomplishments.  She does tolerate snow better than at the beginning of the winter, but still doesn't like "the white stuff" on her ramp and in her yard.  She does love coming in and jumping on Jim or I while she's soaking wet, however!  She will not wear a sweater.  I tried it and she just sits still and won't move.  We'll work on it.

It's been an interesting winter.   There have been a couple of very strong snow storms and a huge amount of wind.  My garden greenhouse had the fiberglass torn off the frame, so I will be rebuilding that.  There was a prairie fire this fall (courtesy of the landfill not knowing what to do with a burning compost pile in 50 mph winds—burned down 12 houses and many, many acres of prairie) so when the wind hits the 25 to 30 mph range, we get sand blowing everywhere.  Much of the area looks like sand dunes.  When spring comes, the grass will come back somewhat and it will look better.

Winds have hit 38 mph sustained several times and have taken their toll on structures out here.  One trailer lost its roof (fortunately, it was a "false roof" built over a metal trailer roof, so no leaking or raining in).  We now have a weather station to tell us how fast the wild is blowing and a wind sock so we can tell direction.

This month, we had several antelope go through our yard.   It's kind of unusual for antelope to be in so close to houses, though they have become less afraid of people in the thirty years I've lived here.  

The ducks have been doing well this winter.  A couple of times they had to go in the greenhouse and off and on they had to go in their pen due to a great horned owl in the area, but most of the time they were in the garden area.  Our "pet" duck, Baby, was alone in her pen as she does not like the other ducks (I saved her by bringing her into the house, but in doing so, kept her from imprinting on other ducks, so she's a pet).  Then the male decided he liked the duck we called Tiny (hatched last summer as a single egg by one of our female ducks) and proceeded to show his interest by breeding her almost exclusively.  As a result, he pulled out a ton of her feathers around her neck.  She looked so sad and pathetic, I decided to separate her from the others.  She and Baby did okay together—they don't like each other, but they don't fight. 

Now we are getting to the season where the hens start laying eggs for broading, so I have the ducks divided into pens and Baby and Tiny are in the garden.  Tiny is laying eggs, but I don't think she's old enough to actually raise baby ducks.  The male is alone in a pen since he seems to be the source of the most angst in the flock.  He's not happy, but when the weather is better, I will let him out with a couple of the hens at a time, so he can enjoy female companionship.

I planted seeds for garden plants.  It's a bit early, but with the warmth of the house and a flourescent light, I think I can get the seeds to come up.  Last year I waited too long and the plants were not big enough by May/June.  I really love growing tomatoes that I can eat.  They are all heirloom varieties and I freeze them for making soups and sauces in the winter.  Homemade tomato soup can't be beat!

That's it for now.  Happy Spring!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Happy Holidays to all

I see I have not updated this blog for quite some time.  Apologies.

Garden season is over now—it's cold and windy.  My garden did well, in spite of a slow start.  My carrots and beets were huge, and the zucchinis very prolific.  In August, there was a frost that killed half the zucchinis and damaged the pumpkin vine and tomatoes.  I trimmed the plants back and warm weather returned, with the plants recovering.

huge beets
frozen pumpkin vine
Huge carrots and 9 lb zucchinni
huge oddly shaped carrots

Sasha is growing some.  She still only weighs about 3 lbs but she's a bit larger in size.  For a tiny dog, she's very tough.  We found she does NOT like snow.  First snow, when we opened the door to let her out, she started at the snow and then ran and hid.  Finally got her out for a bit and she chased some snowflakes.  After that, any time it snows, we pick her up and put her outside.  She's very fast, however, and has been very successful at doubling back and getting back in the house!  Yorkies are surprisingly quick.  She's caught flies and killed them!

Sasha being feisty
Sasha chasing snowflakes

The great horned owl returned for a bit.  While he was interesting in the past, the ducks are now living in the garden and I was worried he'd go after the ducks.  We tried putting them in their pens and/or the greenhouse, but that was not working, so they are back in the garden.  In the greenhouse, Baby has to be separated from the others.  Baby was the duckling I found fallen over in the mud and brought in the house.  Against all odds, she lived, but does not know how to be a duck very well.  Baby does not really get along with the other ducks.  In the garden, it's not a problem since there's plenty of room for all seven of the ducks.

I'm throwing in a picture of fall colors and of the deer in the yard.  The deer are here often and raining down destruction on my trees.  I didn't get time to prune the bottom of the Russian olive trees, which is just as well, since they ate all the leaves off the new shoots.  I would have wasted my time!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Muscovy Duck breeding

I am putting in pictures of my Muscovy ducklings to show how they grow.  I want to note that most of what I have read about raising ducks is not really necessary and makes a lot of work for the owners.  Bleaching bowls, changing bedding if it's wet, etc all made no sense to me.  Ducks live in ponds and no one changes the bedding when it rains.  My Muscovies would roost in trees if I didn't clip their wings.  I wash out the bowls when they look nasty.  I add bedding when it looks nasty.  My ducklings (Pekins, Rouans) when I purchased them were put in enclosures at 60 to 70 degrees.  I did not have the facilities for warmer.  They all did just fine.  The ducklings my hen hatched this year have been cared for her.  I figure the duck knows more than I do about baby ducks.  In the winter, my ducks had a freezer for shelter during the day and heat only when the temperature dropped below zero.  

The one thing I did have to deal with is predators.  Since I clipped the wings on my birds, they depend on me to protect them.  In the past, the single most cause of duck loss for me was the neighbor's dog.  They now have covered pens that they go in at night and the losses have gone down dramatically.

We did butcher four this AM and will do four more tomorrow.  We don't have the facilities for keeping 16 ducks.  The babies that hatched were always destined for the freezer.  I wanted to know what the ducklings looked like as they got older. We started with adults, so I had no idea about the color changes as the Muscovies grew up.  We ended up keeping one of the new males and getting rid of the older one.  He was getting mean and beating up some of the females.  Perhaps a younger male will not be so inclined.  We hope not anyway.

Next year, if we let the hens brood, we will have to modify how they are caged and dealt with.  We need more free-ranging during the day, for one thing.  Otherwise, the growing ducks eat and eat.  We went through 40 lbs of duck food in no time feeding them.

Here are the photos I promised—a day late!

May 17, 2015  one day old

May 23, 2015

May 27, 2015

June 6, 2015

June 12, 2015

June 16, 2015

June 22, 2015

June 27, 2015
Mother duck and largest drake from the hatch July 2, 2015

July 10, 2015

July 23, 2105

July 23  Late hatch I took into the house originally