Search This Blog

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Time flies when you're having fun!

It's been a long time since I updated here.  Summer has ended, fall is past and winter is upon us.

This year we had a yellow-headed blackbird stopping by our yard.  I cannot remember having seen one in the past, nor had I seen the juncos that were here earlier in any other year.  It may have to do with our feeders actually being full this spring!  I also found a camel spider in the house again--I rarely find these bugs inside or out.  
Camel spider
yellow-headed blackbird

The small garden area did well, probably due to the increase in precipitation this year.  We had far more rain than last year and it seemed to make a difference.  We had a large crop of zucchini, two spaghetti squash, lots of lemon cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, beets and a few carrots (the carrots didn't come up very well).  I had allowed the cucumbers and squash to "climb" the chicken wire fences--with some interesting outcomes!
zucchini plants

tomatoes in greenhouse

Vegetable squash growing in fence

Lemon cucumber growing in fence

October 4th marked the end of summer/fall with a heavy, wet snowfall of 18 inches.  Trees came down all over the city and county, leaving the landscape strewn with limbs.  Two month later, the county and city are still trying to get to all the downed limbs on city property, while homeowners wait for tree services to get to their name on the list.  We lost only 3 large branches, but we did go our and knock the snow off the branches to help avoid losing limbs.  The duck pen, with it's chicken wire and snow fence cover, collapsed on the south side.  The ducks were fine--they were a bit confused as to what happened, but they had apparently been in their house at the time of the collapse.  We dug out the snow and pulled the sides back up, but it will require repair before spring and new ducklings are brought in.

Can you find the ducks?

Heavy, wet snow and bending trees

Duck pen before collapse

Sagebrush being weighed down

Very bad for fence

Ice storm a couple of weeks later

Ice storm

Trees down

We ended up with two female ducks which started laying eggs in August.  They were quite prolific layers--up to 5 eggs per day!  I ended up freezing many of the eggs because I just could not use them fast enough.  Since the females were such good layers, we opted to find someone to take the ducks, rather than butcher them.  I plan on going with Pekin ducks again next year.  These were funny to watch and did not follow me around endlessly as did the Rouens we had last year.  Pekins grow very quickly and could go outside quicker than the Rouens.  The one downside was the Pekins seemed messier.  They went everywhere around the yard together--so funny to see them waddling all over the place.  They travelled much more of the five acres than did the ducks last year.  
"Aflac" duck!

Oh, that feels sooo good!

"Headless duck"

ducks in a row!
We did not get any deer this year in hunting season.  The one night they were in the yard was the night the duck pen collapsed.  We had not seen much of them anyway--I think because it rained, there was more natural food and they stayed away.  We still them out on the prairies near the house, but had not seen any in the yard until recently.  The are mostly nocturnal at this point.  The weather is getting colder, so I expect to see more of them come in as winter progresses.

Two point buck, barely

Can you locate the deer?

Stopping for brunch

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer more or less arrives

It's warming up now--in the nineties occasionally.  Yesterday, it was cooler and stormy, with a tornado warning.  One tornado did tough down to the south of here, but did no damage.  We had some pea-sized hail and a lot of wind, plus .15 inch of rain.  Then things cleared and all was well.

We have been out to the cabin several times this year.  Last trip, we found hera buck moth caterpillars.  I brought a few back to see if I can get them to pupate.  I put them in a jar and they formed a caterpillar "train"!  They are now in a more natural setting in a screen enclosure outside and a plastic box inside.

On the way back from the cabin, we saw this sign:

Followed by:

The last two trips out, we took pictures of wildflowers and critters.  We saw three badgers in one day (always a good day when you see badgers!), plus a fox, several eagles and a baby antelope on other trips.

The pair of antelope were the first doe/fawn pair we had seen this year (June 9th).  The tiny fawn we saw June 16th.  He/she is only a few hours old.  The fawn did not move even though we drove past it twice, stopping to take pictures each time.  Very tiny antelope just lie very still in the sage brush.  I just happened to catch a glimpse of this one and we stopped for pictures.  Earlier, we slowed down when we spotted a fawn that looked fairly young, but it was old enough to get up and run when we slowed down.  They learn quite quickly to move away from danger--only the tiny ones lie still while you photograph them.

The photos above and below are paintbrush
we photographed on the way to the cabin.  This
type of paintbrush grows mostly in Shirley Basin.
It's greenish or purplish, unlike the more common
red paintbrush.  Indian paintbrush has many
species growing throughout Wyoming.

                                  These are wild irises.

The ducks are now quite large.  They are allowed out of the pen during the day as long as someone is home.  It took a bit, but they are now wondering about the windbreak and garden areas most of the day.  These ducks are more docile than the Rouens than we had last year, though these are by far noisier.  They almost sound like geese when they get to quacking.  They know me and will stay lying down in the grass when I come by, but they don't know my hubby yet, so they still stand up and start quacking when he goes by.   It's interesting the difference between the two breeds of ducks.  The Pekins still lie down a lot and it wasn't until yesterday that I actually saw them "playing" in the water container we have for them to jump in.  Until yesterday, they would drink out of it, but not jump in.  The Rouens would immediately run to the pans when I turned them loose and jump right in.  The Pekins are much larger than the Rouens already.  We are watching to see how these work out before we decide what species to get next year.

Bug hunting in the windbreak trees!

 Ants were swarming the hose connection earlier in the week.  I don't know if they were looking for water or what.  It was a bit disconcerting!

This is a kingbird atop the empty feeder.  A pair of these have built a next in the windbreak and like to dive at me and squawk when I go past the tree.  They hover above me and make as much noise as possible.  This is the first year I can remember them nesting in the trees, though I always see several of them in my yard each year.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Warmth vanishes

Cold and wet weather returned to Wyoming.  The ducks are now in the greenhouse where they stay dry and out of the high wind.  We had to snag the ducks out of their pen yesterday when the temperature dropped to around 45 and it continued to rain.  They don't have their adult feathers yet and they were soaked when we went out to check.  We herded them into a cage, then moved them over to the greenhouse (all the plants that were hardening off had to come in the house--this is a chaotic time of year).  I do have to check on them to be sure they don't get too warm.  I think they preferred the pen, though maybe they just don't like being chased into cages and relocated!

I noticed their beaks are different colors.  I looked this up and that is apparently how you determine the sex of the ducks.  The lighter peach colored beaks are the females.  We have two females and three males.  It really did not matter to us what sex they were since they are just bug-eaters.

Beak colors indicate sex
It continues to be cold today (50 degrees) and the wind is 15 to 20 mph.  The rain is slowing, so they may be able to go back to their pen tomorrow or Wednesday.

(This will be after I modify the tarp over the pen.  It was nicely waterproof, but also collected a lot of rain, sagging down and damaging the chicken-wire cover to the cage.  Since it has been quite some time since we had any significant rainfall, I had not thought of this possibility.)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Here come the ducks!

 Our baby ducks arrived April 26th.  You see they were very small when we brought them home.  These are Pekin ducks.  Last year we had Rouens.  We raise the ducks to serve as bug and weed control, then butcher them in the fall.  Last year, the Rouens had started laying eggs and we did not know this until this spring when we cleaned out the duck house.  This year we will watch more closely.

These ducks grew very quickly.  We had them in the garage in the duel sided pen from last year (see June 19, 2012 on this blog).  However, because they grew quickly, we put them outside at three weeks of age.
Everything I have read says ducks have to stay warm, but ours have always been kept at 60 to 70 degrees since day one.  Moving them outside actually was warmer than the garage pen.  The cold has no effect on them.  However, when the mercury hit 88 degrees one day, they were panting significantly.  I sprayed the tarp on their cage down and wet the ground to help cool them.  Mornings when it's 45 degrees they are out peeping roaming around the pen.

 This is at about a week in age.  They more than doubled in size during this period.  They were getting cramped in the three foot by three foot pen, even at this age.  And MESSY.

To the bottom right, this is one of their first days out.


You can just see their wings starting to feather out.  They look so funny with the tiny little wings--almost like arms!  They are also getting more white with each passing day.  Unlike the ducks last year, these are not as friendly.  They will come over when I talk to them, but only cautiously.  They also lay down a lot, especially when they seem frightened.

Here we have one of the many swift foxes that live around our lot.  The trapped one was relocated several miles away.  The ducks are still very small and vulnerable to an attack.  I think by the time they get feathered out, the fox may not be such a threat.  Swift foxes are very small-about the size of a cat, and not nearly as aggressive as red or gray foxes.

My game cam caught another fox cruising about after dark.  So far, this has been the only one.

The pen this year has a full cover--chicken wire on one side, orange snow fence on the other--to help keep predators out.  After catching three foxes so far this spring, we opted to add fiberglass around the pen for now, so predators can't dig under.  I will probably modify this design as the ducks get older.  You can see a "door" right by the concrete block.  This is so we can reach the food and water containers without going into the pen or opening the larger gate.  I decided last year we needed a change.  Also, the water dishes will sit on an area I dug out and filled with rocks, then put the dirt back.  This should allow for much better drainage.

I will update periodically.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

And winter just keeps coming

April 16 and we are in the middle of a blizzard!  This time we have a lot of wind.  I'm not sure how much snow, as it is piled up in corners of the yard, the sagebrush and multiple drifts.  It's supposed to snow through noon tomorrow!  Actually, even though it's late in the year, we really need snow or rain. It has been remarkably dry.
(Check out the wildlife page for my bird pics.  The dog and I went out and put food in the feeder in spite of the blizzard--they looked sooo cold.)

April 16, 3pm
(more snow expected.....)

April 10, which had mostly melted by the snow of the 16th

I liked the snow on the trees and sagebrush.

This has probably been hard on my daffodils,   which had just started blooming when the snow hit.  I will find out when things warm  up.  It has been very cold at night, so they may have frozen.

This was a unique icicle!  Needless to say, it fell off the first time we turned on the light, but it was interesting for a while!


The window photo was taken at night and shows how much snow piled up.  When it warmed up, the snow on the roof melted and dropped down on the snow, knocking it off.


 The two small photos show more snow built up.  My dog is maybe eight inches tall at her tummy, so the snow was deep to her.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Weather, weather every where!

The last week has been an interesting one for weather.  On March 17, in the morning we had strong winds, massive dust storms then in the afternoon we had a blizzard!

Now the snow!

It never really go very light in the afternoon, which
is why the blizzard looks so dark.
It snowed about 3 inches, with the wind blowing
in from all directions.

Today, the 21st of March, we are having another snow storm.

It's brighter today and snowing quite
hard.  I let my little dog out and she
was bravely hopping through the snow!
Actually, she loves the snow and will
sit out in it until she gets completely
covered.  I didn't think that she would
brave the depth of the snow,
but she did.