Sunday, June 29, 2014

flight feathers

The chicks are growing.  And their feathers are changing from the fluffy downy monochromatic coloring they had when they first came to us into feathers with more defined shaping, the center shaft stronger and thicker for flight.  There are emerging colorful spots, here and there, on their necks and glimpses just above their wings of their adult coloring.  In my opinion, they are going to be a gorgeous flock for us.   I know.  Looks aren't everything. 

Possible Rooster is developing a mane.

Sumo, still fuzzy faced, but more mature.



Tiny.  Not so tiny anymore, but still quite bonded with Possible Rooster.

Luckily, despite their changing feathers, they still have their fluffy bottoms.  I do so love their fluffy bottoms.

Possible Rooster is going to be quite a looker.  

And she or he has a very sweet personality thus far.

They are mastering the ramp out of the coop, no longer needing to be lifted down to get to the ground.

Tiny's Sister is often the first out, stretching and standing up straight.

We head down to the coop each day to spend time with them, handle them, and make sure they are staying comfortable and gentle with us.  Julia an Elliott are quite skilled with them and are committed to raising them by hand.

And also, Elliott and Julia are still schooling them.  Right now, they are teaching the chicks to fly.  They remove the ramp from the door to the coop.  And try to give them flying lessons.  Which is funny, coming from the flightless humans that we are.

The take off is rather awkward and they seem a bit nervous about it.

Others take a more confident approach.

Sometimes much to the surprise of their teachers.

And some are still working on directions.  And learning just what fencing is.

Once on the ground, there is a good deal of fluttering and fluffing and silliness and some chicken pecking order antics, which they seem not to do when they are in the smaller space of the coop.  I would have guessed it might be the other way around.  But something about being outside and freer causes Possible Rooster to show her true feathers.

And Sumo still wants to wrestle.  Or ride a friend like a bucking bronco.

But they are quite comfortable with each other, and are spending more and more time each day outside, scratching the dirt and playing and learning to take dirt baths.  And they are turning out to be the perfect backyard flock.  With some devoted caretakers.

Friday, June 27, 2014

strawberries for breakfast

The garden is starting to feed us a bit for each meal.  I had just picked a bowl of strawberries for breakfast.  When I looked down at the garden and noticed movement in the kale patch.

I went closer and saw, just behind the table and under the garden shed, a familiar sight.  Fresh dirt on top of the mulch we had just spread there a few days before.  And when I stood quietly for a few minutes and waited, I saw him.  A very large, sleepy, and comfortable groundhog.

I was not surprised really.  It seems to have become a tradition here.  Just when we think the garden is under control.  When we are having salad with every dinner.  And fresh fruit with every breakfast.  A groundhog seems to decide that the garden, and the garden shed, would be a lovely place to set up shop.  Last year our subterranean tenant went for the peas and beans first.  This fellow seems to prefer kale.

And sunning himself.  He is very big.  And I think, a bit grey around the snout.

I was trying to make breakfast.  But he kept making an appearance. And I was trying to get a good picture of him.  And rescue what I could of the row of kale.  Therefore, my breakfast preparation was a bit distracted.  

Oh look.  My garbanzo beans are flowering.

Funny little experimental crop this year, garbanzo beans.

Anyhoo, I returned to the kitchen, where I placed my zoom lens next to my mixing bowl and set to work.  I was making Good Morning Scones, a recipe in the latest issue of Grounded Magazine, to which I am a contributor.  

The going was slow, since I had my eyes on the garden, protectively, and also with a little bit of seasoned, well gee.  He's back again.  Ho hum.

He was being all cazh.  Yup, I just spent a few minutes looking up how to spell that. 
When something is so casual that it is too casual to use a word that is longer than one syllable.
definition of cazh, Urban Dictionary

Doing a little manscaping.

To groom a man. Shaving, waxing, cleaning up the superfluous fur.
definition of manscaping, Urban Dictionary

Some venturing out to plan for his next meal.

And he was a friendly soul.  Making the acquaintance of a cast of characters out there that morning.  None of whom were supposed to be there, each one being destructive in his or her own way out there, but each of whom I had been casually coexisting with for the past few weeks, accepting a bit of loss to them but kind of enjoying their antics.

Let me introduce them.  Because they were all out in their full glory that morning.

Ulysses, for Kate DiCamillo's Flora and Ulysses, of course.

And Chipster.

Who lives happily in the garden shed with Ulysses.  We think that they may well be in a relationship.


 The catbird who likes my strawberries, named for a favorite ice cream shop, Catbird Creamery.

And My Friend Flicka.  Who digs constantly for worms.  Especially where I have planted seeds.

Mid-scone stir, I saw movement again and grabbed my camera and went out again.  This time, I found where Señor Gründ Haag (say it with a pause between ground and hog, with your best version of a German accent, which makes no sense with the Spanish title, but whatevs) was making his entry into the garden to get to his new residence.  His driveway, so to speak.  I have decided Señor is a boy.  Because I believe in the power of positive thinking, and I do not want there to be groundhoglets under there with him.  Because I value my salad.

I was kind of enjoying the in and out of the kitchen to garden journeys, so I decided to do nothing to block the freshly dug hole.  I also had no way of knowing if I was going to block the Señor in or out of his burrow.  And I certainly did not want to hurt him.

And so, I walked back up to the kitchen, grabbed my iPhone, and texted Jonathan, who was out on errands.  Groundhog back.  I think it is time to invest in a trap.   He quickly responded, Heading to Maine Hardware now.

For the past two years we have rented a large Havahart trap from Maine Hardware.  Given how cazh we were all being here, clearly this was a long term relationship.  And it made sense to invest.

Jonathan arrived home with our newest toy.  Set straight to work setting it up, not even asking any details, so used to these visitations he is at this point.  And also not asking why the kids still had not had breakfast yet.

Last year we baited with melon.  But we had no melon.  So we went local.  We grabbed some strawberries.

Placed the trap near the new burrow.

And headed back to the house.  

And I did indeed finish up breakfast.  I even added chocolate chips to the scones to apologize for the fact that we were now having strawberries and scones for lunch.  The scone recipe?  Delicious.  And so much simpler than other scone recipes I have used.  Which was good, because I was distracted by the garden animal show out the windows.

We still haven't caught the Señor.  And throughout the day we moved the trap from place to place in the garden.  Closer to the entrance.  Into the kale patch.  I even rigged a chicken wire tunnel that led from burrow straight into the trap which -- assuming he slept in his own bed -- he somehow went around.  I am thinking he has another exit from under the shed.  Because while we were playing later, he was out and about in the yard, tunnel still pinned to the ground and intact, running in lazy circles, from barn to pool shed, around the garden to barn again.  He was just showing off.

But Chipster and Ulysses were interested in having some strawberries and were being loyal to their residence.  They are spunky, and chattery, and inquisitive.  Extroverts.

And then, Ulysses had a rather embarrassing moment.  He got himself into a bit of a jam.

Don't look at me.  I am hideous, he said, hiding behind his fluffy tail.

He gave me a little demonstration about just how he is able to quickly dispatch any chewable attempts to keep him out of the shed and its chicken feed.

And within minutes of his embarrassing mistake -- we only set the trap when we are here and can check it constantly for visitors -- we were able to carry Ulysses down the river bank.  Truth be told, though pesky at times, we kind of love our little furry residents, from a distance, and really just want to re-home them when they start to be destructive.  As always, Elliott kept careful watch to be sure we were humane and gentle with Ulysses.

His tummy full of what should have been Señor's breakfast, we aimed Ulysses toward the river, and set him free.

He hopped out -- like he was shot out of a cannon, Julia observed -- and streaked toward the blackberry patch.  But who are we kidding?  We will see him soon.

You can hear the James Bond theme music accompanying his stealthy return, right?

He has a new friend with whom he plans to get further acquainted.  And to have over for chicken scratch tea, as an apology for eating his berries (his version of chocolate chips).

Señor.  He is a bit of an introvert.  
A person who is energized by spending time alone. Often found in their homes, libraries, quiet parks that not many people know about, or other secluded places, introverts like to think and be alone.
definition of introvert, Urban Dictionary 

So the Señor and I?  We understand each other.

I would like him to hurry up and get in my trap though.  Because I have another use for our new toy.  The box shows a picture of raccoons.  And the Maine Hardware employee gave Jonathan advice about how to seduce a raccoon, who is interested in chickens and their eggs, into a trap.  For now, let's just say it involves marshmallows.  I am intrigued.  And a little bit scared.  Because his instructions also came with advice about how to deal with a very angry raccoon.  This raccoon may not be quite as charming as Señor.  Even when well fed.  But perhaps, if I give him a name...