Friday, August 15, 2014

Sage's First Egg

I had some nice break from the watering duty in the past several days as the monsoonal moisture paid the desert a visit with a generous amount of precipitation. :D  It's not fun for the kitties and chickens to be cooped up all day, and the amount of mud that gets tracked into the house is no joke.  Still, rain in the desert is much more than just the much-needed water.  It gives us relief at a much deeper, psychological ... probably spiritual level.

After an overnight rain and cloudy morning, I went to open the chicken coop doors for the girls a little later than usual after the rain had stopped yesterday.  Much to my surprise, there was a speckled brown egg inside the younger girls' coop!  I knew it was Sage's first egg since she's the only brown egg layer of the three (Vanilla and Mocha are Easter Eggers, and their eggs will be green to blue.).  For a first egg, it was not weird like "membrane without hard shell", "malformed", or "puny".  Sage's first egg was maybe a little on the 'slim' egg shape, but evenly shaped with a nice hard shell!  The pullets are roughly 14 & 1/2 weeks old right now, so it's rather early, but they get to free range all day, eating lots of greens and whatever bugs they catch.  They seem happy and definitely healthy, so it's not surprising that they would start laying early.

Pullets outside of their run, but staying close to their coop.

We started letting the girls free range with supervision at first.  Dorito was a little aggressive at first, followed by some challenges made by Fiona to Mocha (because Mocha is physically largest of the younguns).  The establishing of the pecking order is natural and nothing was excessive.  No aggressive pecking to cause any kind of injury.  So we kept lengthening the amount of time the pullets stayed outside.  In about 5 days, we were letting them out during daylight hours.  Aggressive behavior by  the two grownups have subsided.  Now, on a good day, we see all five of them foraging in the same area of the yard.  But for the most part, they are in two groups of two and three in different parts of the yard doing their own thing.

Pullets venturing out in the grassy area of the backyard.  Now they move around all over the backyard.
The other day, I saw Sage catch a grasshopper.  She immediately started running away from Vanilla and Mocha.  Before Sage could make a getaway, the others started off running after her.  There it was!  The chicken football.  LOL  So much excitement and commotion.  It's a delightful sight to watch these girls run as fast as they can.  In the end, Sage successfully outran the other two (She has always been the most athletic, most curious, and most brave of the three.), and munched on the grasshopper happily.

Now the pics from the garden. :D

The fruits of the Goliath tomato plant have started maturing nicely.  My first crop was used to make one of my favorite summer dishes of all time - tabbouleh.  The tomato from the garden adds so much flavor to this all fresh, simple dish, I always feel it's the best thing ever. ^^;

Ichiban is my favorite eggplant.  It's the skinny Japanese variety.  I think the flavor is sweeter and smoother than the big fat Italian types that are prone to grow lots of seeds inside.  This is one vegetable I grow year after year and never get tired of.

I've spotted dozen ore more LARGE fruits ripening on my German Queen tomato out back.  The plant is over 4 feet tall now. ^_^

The sunflower fence is producing lots of blooms now.  The tallest plants are probably somewhere between 9 1/2 to 10 feet tall now.  It is at least as tall as the garage's eaves.  The Mammoth Russian sunflowers are still growing and I finally see them forming buds, but no flowers yet.  They're still growing. :D

Took this close-up of one of the blooms.  Isn't it mesmerizing?  It's almost like staring into a mandala...

August's Super Moon.  I love full moon in the morning.  I love the crisp cool air, the gently hazy sky with pastel tones... just so peaceful.   ^_^

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Fast growing plants are generally fun to watch (although the amount of water they require is not so fun...).  Luckily, Colorado's desert west is not under restrictions this year.  Even in official drought years, our city has never had to resort to any kind of watering restrictions.  Though there is water available, I live in the part of the city that does not have access to "irrigation" water, so the water comes from the tap.  I have noticed a lot of people's yards go completely neglected since the beginning of recession.  Our area was slow to feel the impact at the beginning, but likewise slow to feel the recovery the media keeps talking about. ^^;  Personally, I'm ready to switch to artificial grass for the front yard.  I've never been a big lawn enthusiast (Hate to sound sexist or to overgeneralize, but that seems like a guy thing.), so I would have no problem having more water to use on flowers and edibles by not having live lawn.

This photo was taken on July 20th.  Just about all of the sunflowers along the fence have reached the 4-foot-tall top railing of the fence.  Now that they're getting drip irrigation throughout the day, they're growing fast.

The first sunflower along the fence to bloom was a red one.  We planted a mixed row of 5 different packets of sunflower seeds at the end of May.  Felt so behind our neighbors when we started seeing sunflowers blooming in June.

A lemon yellow one beginning to unfurl on July 20th.

The same one, fully open on July 23rd.  8 inches across.  Bees seem to love sunflowers.

I measured the tallest sunflower this morning and it is now at 6 feet.  2 feet above the top railing of the fence.  And officially taller than I am. LOL   It looked kind of sparse when I thinned them out, but now they seem almost crowded again.  Some of the varieties (the red ones and the lemon yellows shown above) have lots of buds setting, so we will be seeing a lot more flowers.  The mammoth sunflowers still show no sign of buds.  The leaves keep getting bigger and stems are growing thicker every day. :D  I hope they get large this year.  I've only had moderate success with those mammoth ones as our soil below 6 inches or so is stubborn clay - extremely poor gardening soil.

German Queen tomato (heirloom variety) is doing well alone in the backyard far away from the garden boxes.  It is getting drip irrigation as an extended part of the sunflower fence.  This plant is now over 4 feet tall.  The protection of the chicken wire fence material is 4 feet tall here.

Looked closer at the plant and found these fruits growing. :D  I can't wait to get fresh tomatoes from the garden!!  I love making sandwiches with fresh, just-off-the-vine, sun-warmed tomatoes, lettuce, cukes, and mayo.  None of my family members understand why this is such a big deal for me, but they're simply missing out on something truly special.  Well, that's my humble opinion. :D

Meet my new fairy in the garden.  This is Fiona.  I didn't name her.  She came named by the manufacturer.  I found her on eBay and just had to have her.  Here, she's lying in front of the fever few clusters.  (I like moving her around...)

And this is Ilana.  She's sitting on the frame of the garden box.  She's surrounded by alyssum, pansies, and chocolate mint here.  I see her accidentally fallen off the edge in the morning a lot.  No doubt the works of the kitties... ^^;  Anyhow, there are several more in the series, and I hope to add more to the collection.

Just to the right of Ilana in the garden box is this pink monarda.  At first we saw purple blooms, but they're done blooming, and now we're seeing this light pink flowers from the same cluster of plants.  I'd like to divide them later in the season and plant them elsewhere in the garden, too.  These guys have really taken off this year and they're 4 feet tall...  I think it's taller than the label said they were going to be.

I think this tomato is called Goliath, and it was supposed to be a good container/patio tomato.  This one is in the summer veggies box with broccoli and eggplant.  The fruits are finally getting bigger.  Although with 100+ degrees heat now, I've noticed a sudden decrease in flowers.  Getting too hot, maybe?

Also small in stature is my Indigo Rose tomato.  My daughter asked me, "Are these grapes? What is up with this?"  LOL  Yes, the fruits on this tomato plant are about the color of the concord grapes!  Once ripe, they begin to get the tomato red color on the bottom of the fruits, but they look prettier with purple/green combo.  Fruits are cherry tomato size.

We've begun free ranging the three young pullets two days ago.  The little girls are almost 12 weeks old and fully feathered in, so we thought we'd supervise and see how things go. First day, we let them out about 30 minutes before dusk and they've successfully put themselves back in the coop.  Second day, we let them out about an hour before dusk.  We're gradually extending the amount of time.  The first day, we saw some hostility from the older ladies, as expected.  Fiona challenged Mocha (the largest of the three younguns), and they went into a brief chest-bumping match - nothing too excessive.  Fiona's neck feathers were all ruffled.  I didn't know she could do that. :D  She seemed to be satisfied with the results and didn't bother the younguns afterwards.  At least, they don't mingle closely enough (They are in two distinct groups out there, occupying different areas of the backyard.), so there's no pecking or constant harassing going on.  I think they're off to a good start.  At least, as good as we can reasonably expect from them.  ^_^

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Late Update

I take pics and then intend to sit and write up a post so many times before it actually happens. T_T  Something, usually an e-mail from someone or a call, distracts me, and before I know it, days go by.  I have to get better at keeping my garden and chicken journal up to date.

We're now seeing triple digit daily highs.  Now, this is just plain uncomfortable at this point.  I can only stand to work outside early in the morning (or if I feel so inclined, after sunset).  Morning hours between 6 and 8 are very nice, especially before 7 when the temperature is still in the mid 60s.  Once the sun comes up though, the dry air of the desert west heats up fast and sun is scorching hot.  My skin hurts when I don't get myself into shade.  No fun, and I've got plenty of pigments in my skin and don't usually burn, but tan really easily...

I actually managed to get some nice pics of the 4th of July fireworks for the first time. :D  (I did get a lot of duds, too... ^^;  )

Pretty much all the spring veggies in the one SFG has gone to bolt.  Onion flowers are cool to look at... but they reek.  The pretty blue daisy flowers belong to some of the greens that were in the salad mix. :D  These plants are taller than I am now.  Ridiculous. LOL

Still getting visits from many different kinds of bees.  We see huge bumblebees out in the old part of the backyard where these wild larkspur plants are growing.  They love the purple flowers.

English lavender in the Bees and Butterflies box is doing well.  In fact, pretty much everything in that box is doing wonderfully. ^_^

Still demure in stature, the Indigo Rose tomato has a lot of fruits on the vine.  A few of the ones that set early in the season have started changing the bottom color from green to red.

This Fever few clump was transplanted from north of the house to a summer veggies/herbs box last year.  It was tiny and had a hard time getting going after transplant, but it's doing a lot better this year.  I love the scent of this plant.  This year, we have a much larger clump of it come back in the northern shaded area of the house where the soil is dry and poor.

Getting there slowly... :D

Chickens at 7 weeks.  Mostly feathered in and looking very much like pullets now.  Still chirps like chicks, but every now and then, they make 'chicken' sounds.  The sound vocabulary is expanding.  Still haven't learned to stay out of the water bowl, though. XD

"German Queen" heirloom tomato on June 24th.

Same plant on July 1st.  This tomato is growing fast and doing well in the barren lot that has not been used for many seasons.  The soil was amended with some organic garden soil and compost, with handful of bone meal and blood meal, and a doze of Sea Magic.  I don't use chemical fertilizer on our food stuff.

Forgot to insert this when I was talking about the Bees and Butterfly Garden Box!  This bee balm clump is in there.  Somehow got so tall this year ... like 4.5 feet.  Looking a little out of control, but I love the scent of the leaves.

Chickens at 8 weeks (Pic taken on July 1st).  Clockwise from top left: Vanilla, Mocha, and Sage.  Sage is still the smallest, but she's the head bird of these three.  The two older chickens come by often and take sand bath right next to their run.  I think they've gotten used to the idea of 'more chickens'... finally.  I'm still not taking chances and won't be releasing them out until they're fully 16 weeks old.  We're more than halfway there since they just turned 9 weeks old on the 6th of July.  Vanilla is a wheaton Easter Egger.  I don't know what Mocha's feathers are called, but she's black, gold, and brown.  Very pretty.  And Sage is a classic Barred Plymouth Rock with black & white wavy stripes appearance.  She is till the most curious and the sweetest!  These are special birds.

The sunflower fence on the south end of the backyard.  These guys got such a late start in the season, but they seem to be doing OK.  I'm using some tumble weeds for mulch.  This area has tumble weed infestation of gigantic magnitude on some properties - you'll see Christmas tree size tumble weeds on a regular basis.  :(
I'm actually allergic to the pollen of tumble weed flowers, so I pluck or cut them down whenever I see them.

Not a good comparison shot at all! LOL  *mega fail*  This was taken on July 1st.  The tallest sunflower measured 37 inches.  This is a mixed planting of at least 5 different varieties of sunflowers.  Some were Russian Mammoth seeds, so I'm hoping to see some giants... eventually.   ^_^

Friday, June 20, 2014

Backyard Update

Chicks have turned 6 weeks old on Father's Day (June 15, 2014).  Time flies.  I have not been able to keep up with the blog.  It's been almost 3 weeks since my last entry. ^^;  Chicks are not the only thing that have grown in that time...

Here's a pic of Sage at 5+ weeks.  They have outgrown the old watering bowl.  I have bought the larger waterer.  It is placed slightly raised above ground level, but it still gets dirty from the chicks bathing in the dirt, kicking it everywhere.

Mocha and Vanilla at 5+ weeks, with Chaba the cat photo bombing.  LOL  She and a couple of cats just can't get enough of the chicks.  ^^;

Swiss Chard in the Spring Veggies Box looking beautiful.  My salad greens have started bolting in the heat.  Various flowers are about to bloom.  I kind of have fun watching them grow flowers.  Adds to the color.

Because it has gotten so hot, the broccolis have no time but form a rather small head before buds start to open.  This is what you have to deal with when you have a rather short spring (and late start in the garden).  ^^;

Because it is consistently in the 90s for mid-day high these days, I have a record short pea plants.  At least they're producing.  ^^;

I have some chrysanthemums interplanted in the Summer Veggies Box and found these baby ladybugs.  They're good for eating aphids that are bothering the broccoli plants.

The "Indigo Rose" tomato plants have fruits forming. :D  Purple on top and green at the bottom.  More fruits are forming.  The plant is still rather small...

The "German Queen" heirloom tomato that was planted way back in the old garden plot with plenty of room.  We have the tomato support, and on the outside of it, chicken wire fencing to protect from our free-ranging chickens.    Last year, we had a tomato plant grow wide in the SFG box and it was touching the fence.  Chickens were pecking on the tomato fruits through the fence material.  They do like tomatoes.  At any rate, this tomato plant is doing well.  Currently about 18 inches tall.

The sunflowers along the back fence line are doing well.  Most are about 10 inches tall and have been thinned once.  When they reach a foot tall, I will thin them again for 1 per spot.  They are still so short, compared to the volunteer sunflowers that grew from last year's seeds.  I have neighbors with sunflowers that are already blooming, too.  ^^;

Hubby and I made an exciting addition to our baby coop - a chicken run! :D  It's 8 feet long and 2 feet wide.  Connects to the end access door of the coop we purchased.  This is painted to match the coop.  It's been a big hit with the babies.  Sage was the first to come out past the threshold and venture out into the new run.  I see the girls running back and forth.  They do some funny hop-step-jump kind of stunts, and do a lot of chest bump with running starts. XD   It seems Sage has established herself as the boss bird of the three.  Brave and inquisitive, despite her small size.   These last two photos were taken today.

Mocha is starting to develop a rather cool pattern.  She also seems to be growing crest-like feathers on the sides of her head.  After the run was set up and the babies were venturing out, Dorito, once again, acted all annoyed and upset, squawking like a rooster, trying to peck at the little ones through the wirecloth...  The babies were just so curious about the big ladies that roam freely around them.

At the end of June, they will be 8 weeks old and we will be switching their food from 'chick starter' to the 'grower' type.  Although they seem to have grown so much since they first arrived, they're still a fraction of the fully-mature chickens in size.  But these babies will most likely start laying eggs at about 5 months, which will be end of September. :D

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Update on the Garden

The chicks have turned 4 weeks old on Sunday, and they're doing really well.  Sage (Barred Plymouth Rock) is a sweetie and an adventurer, wanting to sneak out every time I open the door to change water and refill feed. ^^;  Luckily, she's quite content to have a visit on Grandma's lap for a while.  It's so unbelievably easy to scoop her up.  The other two always have a bit of a shenanigan of running madly around before settling down.  So I usually just spend extra time with Sage as I change the water multiple times a day.  They are getting larger, with Vanilla still being the biggest and Sage being the smallest.  But Sage definitely has a big attitude. LOL  Will have their photos next time.

Today, I have mostly garden photos as things have really picked up the pace outside with high temperatures on a regular basis.  With the high temperature, sometimes comes wind, which increases the frequency of watering for me. T_T  As I'm still recuperating from my recent illness, I can't do things quite as quickly and as easily.  Water feels heavy in a 2-gallon watering can, and the distance to the 'Sunflower Fence' seems longer... under my current condition.  But I have good news.  We have germination in every spot (20 along the fence).

This spot was sown with two different kinds of sunflowers.  Eventually, they will be thinned to one of each in a spot.  I have successfully managed to keep the soil moist during germination, so it only took 5 to 7 days, and I have drip irrigation hose in place along the fence, so I will be able to start using it.  The sad thing though, is that we have an old Elm tree that sheds so many seeds every spring.  All the little seedlings are them in the photo.  I'll be eliminating them in the coming days. T_T

Just on this side of the "Sunflower Fence" is the purple meadow.  These are volunteer plants (originally larkspurs that I grew from a seed package of blue flowers).  As long as we've been at this house, these guys have managed to self-seed and perpetuate in this somewhat sparse and bushy form for years.  The bees love these purple flowers - in particular giant bumble bees.  I've tried to capture in a photo at least one of the multiple giants that come to our backyard for the past three days, with no luck.  As soon as I start to walk toward them, they seem to sense it and fly away, only to return later. ^^;

Walking towards the house, here's the summer veggies box.  I've somewhat casually planted it this year with the broccoli plants making a semi-circle around an eggplant and tomato.

This morning, I noticed the beginning of a crown on 3 of the broccoli plants.  :D

Right next to the Summer Veggies Box is the Bees & Butterflies Box filled with flowers both annual and perennial.  Chocolate Mint proved to be extremely invasive last year, but the Bee Balm clump that didn't do much last year has come back with a vengeance, and they're about ready to start blooming. :D  Even more bees.  Speaking of bees, one got stuck in my hair right by the left temple.  Initially, I felt a slight panic, but I just hoped the bee would manage to untangle himself and he did so rather quickly.  :D   I just stood still while he returned to freedom.

The onions are out of control! LOL  The flower buds have formed and the stems have really shot up.  They are doing some kind of contemporary art thing by twisting and bending.  They're always changing. LOL

Next to the Spring Veggies Box is the Strawberry Box.  This photo was taken May 30, 2014.

And this was taken today.  Yum!  :D :D :D  Exciting~!!!

On Saturday, this arrived in the mail and I, like a garden nerd, was giddy. :D  My favorite tomato food!

It's basically a powdered sea kelp from North Pacific, that provides micro-nutrients to the plant.  The first time I used this, I had an heirloom tomato grow to 8 feet tall and out of control.  It eventually got blown over on a windy day, support and all.  Even though the main stem was damaged, it kept producing fruits like nothing happened until it got too cold.  It was an amazing experience. :D  So I'm hoping we can duplicate that kind of fun this year.

And, as I had hoped to show you one day, I cracked open one of our girls' eggs and one store-bought egg.  The one on the left is Dorito's egg with richer orange color, perky yolk... generally so robust and wholesome. :D  I let the girls eat a variety of greens in their diet, along with seeds and nuts, aside from their standard layer feed.  They scratch and forage all day long in the backyard, and they are happy.  I think it shows in their eggs. ^_^  (To think that the garden grub they find and eat with such glee is a protein that transforms into eggs... LOL)

Next time, I'll have chicks photos. ^_^