December 18, 2014

Almost winter

It does feel like winter today: it is 45 degrees at 3 pm and there is frost in the forecast for tonight. We have had some rain too the last couple of days, 0.7 inches so far, and that contributes to that cold, wintry, feeling. But it does make it feel that the holidays are near and I much enjoy that. If you were brought up in a cool climate that saw some snow and dark days at the end of December, it is difficult to sing Oh Christmas Tree when you are walking around in short sleeves.


I am not the only one cold this afternoon. Here is Roadie trying to warm up in an errant ray of sun. I think it is time for a fire in the fireplace.

November 27, 2014

Thankful


It is a good day to be a chicken, and not a turkey.


Happy Thanksgiving!


November 16, 2014

Here it is November ...

… and I don't think I have done a single blog. It is not that we are not doing anything, but they are the usual end-of-season jobs that are just not glamorous or fun, like cleaning out the tack room, weeding, keeping up with the young hens and Emma's sisters who went home yesterday.

It has been mild still, but last week we went from short sleeves and shorts to long pants. Funny to go shopping in Tucson and see that the snowbirds have arrived: they are in sumer clothes and, compared to the rest of the country, this is warmish, sunny weather.

This morning a system came in with quite a bit of wind, clouds and some moisture that lasted all of 5 seconds, literally.



In spite of the weather I am working to get my head in holiday mood.

October 24, 2014

A grand day out

The weather is beautiful: cool nights and warm days. The chicks are growing by leaps and bounds and I thought early this week that they might enjoy a change of scenery from the coop. These are cautious little hens though and it has taken a couple of days for them to venture into their part of the chicken yard. There was a lot of lounging in the door opening with wings outstretched and it was obvious everybody enjoyed a sunbath.


As I came to do chores this morning everybody was clustered at the door as if to say: today is the day, we are going out! It still took some hours for Cindy and Layla to take the plunge, but all except Marilyn has had their turn. They are all starting to suffer from "flap attacks" so I am glad we heightened the fence to 6 feet.


They all know where the water is and how to get back inside, so all's good.

October 18, 2014

House guests

Yesterday our friend Mary came and picked up her dogs after a vacation in New Zealand. The house is just not the same without Emma's sisters. Both Dan and I love having wall to wall dogs around our feet. Not all dogs will do: Labradors are tops in our book. This coming from previously confirmed German Shepherd Dog, and GSD-types, lovers as we have shared our life with them for about 30 years.


Emma's sisters are Claire (middle), who is two years Emma's senior and shares the same parents, and Emily (right), who is two years Emma's junior and has the same mom but a different dad. The Sisters, as we call them, look a lot more alike than Claire and Emma, who might have taken after their dad. It may have a little to do with the fact that Emma (aka Queen Buttercup) is a fat girl, and the other two are thin and lithe, as behooves dogs who belong to a vet.

All three are sweet dogs and easy to care for. There is some barking at and chasing of coyotes, some rolling in unsavory items and eating various desert delights, but overall they are very happy just lying around and being loved.



We look forward to a return visit in about 10 days. Meanwhile, Emma is catching up on sleep and attention.

October 16, 2014

Growing up

Our little chicks are a bit over 3 weeks old now, and not little any longer. So far they have been living in safe and secure shop/shed in a large horse feeder with a fan during the day and a heat lamp during the night. Like all young animals it is eating, drinking, pooping, sleeping, with the occasional wild hair to chase a bug or try-out of wings.

Yesterday we heard an overly loud peep and found one chick missing. Marilyn had flown the tub and was hiding behind the tool chest. Obviously it was time to move.

In introducing a new flock to the older hens before, I divided the coop in half with chicken wire so everybody could see each other but there was no direct contact. It was a successful scheme so I had already prepared the coop and this morning we were ready to bring the chicks to bigger quarters.

Most of their down has now been replaced with feathers, and I think they will be beautiful birds once past this awkward adolescent stage. I like this breed because you will be able to tell the hens apart, and they have already all been named. They are changing so quickly now though that it is sometime difficult to say who is who.


Lily

Cindy

Layla

The new quarters.

Fort Nocks

After having lived for years in peace with the coyotes, a new, more wild/aggressive, family has moved into the neighborhood. Up to this year we never lost a hen to predation with the chicken yard just being fenced in 4 feet tall chicken wire. The coyotes just cruised by, possibly licking their chops, and that was that.

I don't know whether these animals were emboldened by being able to help themselves to apples on the trees, but they now think they own this place. In the spring they started digging at the backside of the yard and made off with 3 hens in one fell swoop. We reinforced where they had dug down, but that same week another 3 disappeared.

So we retrenched, now being down to less than a ten chickens, we limited the yard to the part fenced in 4 foot field fencing, adjacent to the coop, and installed additional chicken wire on the bottom to discourage digging. For a while all was well until this week when the dogs found a lot of feathers on our walk around the property and we were down yet another hen. There was no sign of digging, so based on the evidence presented, a coyote jumped the fence and made off with a hapless bird.

The gloves are now off, especially with 6 young chickens about to be introduced into the coop and the coop yard. Over the last couple of days we increased the fence height to 6 feet with more field fencing and reinforced more of the bottom. The place is now Fort Nocks.



We are down to 5 hens: Goldie and Isabella from our original flock, and three Buffs, one of which is suffering from PTSD and has not left the coop since the last incident. I feel fairly confident that we have the coyotes number now, which is a good thing because the new chicks have outgrown their tub in shop/shed.

September 30, 2014

About to fledge, …. gone!


This is the third brood of road runners this year, but the first one incubated on the roost in the horse barn. The parents are young birds themselves, and I questioned their parenting skills but they have done a good job with these two youngsters. I don't think there is a lizard alive within 2 miles of the WD. There is a food delivery about every five minutes.

The road runners being rather tame, it is fun to watch the goings on while you are cleaning horse stalls or giving horse spa treatments. The roost/nest is above Buggsy's stall and the parents squawk a bit when you are there for an extended period of time, but they tolerate us as well as the farrier and his helper, and just go about their business.



This morning it was evident that the biggest nestling was about to go venture out, but we missed the actual first flight. I saw him a little later in the stall, with the parent in the nearby round pen, totally unconcerned. I hope they remember there is still a young one up there.


September 29, 2014

Pears

This is the first year our pear trees have borne fruit. Nobody's fault but mine that it has taken some years to get here, but I won't go into that. I was so excited to see pears that I asked Dan to put fencing around the most promising tree so the coyotes would not be able to help themselves as they do to the apples. These babies were mine!


I picked them still green as I was afraid of them falling off the tree and ripened them in a bag with some apples. This weekend they were ready. After sampling one I decided that the texture of these would allow these to be used in a dessert as they were quite firm, even when fully ripe. They are sugar pears, and reminded me of my grandmother cooking pears as accompaniment to pork. So good.

There were about 5 pounds of fruit and I found a great recipe in Fine Cooking for ginger-pear cobbler. I am no food stylist, and suffice it to say it is delicious even if it looks, well ….


September 24, 2014

Family additions



I got new chicks today! They are day-old Americanas (aka Easter Egg Layers because they lay blue eggs). They were shipped last night from Ohio, we picked them up this afternoon at the Tucson post office and installed them in their temporary quarters just now.


My first flock (2007) had some Americanas and we found them pretty, friendly, and good layers. They all have different looks, as opposed to a flock of just red or black chickens, so you get to know them better, which has pros and cons (when they pass on). I am currently down to 7 non-laying, henopausal hens, and these new girls will be ready to start laying this spring.

It is amazing to me that these little birds, who are not so little when you compare them with quail chicks which we see a lot here, are hatched and shipped without water or food, surviving on the nutrients in the egg and can live like that for a couple of days. Lots of cheeping in the box though.

First thing after unpacking is to dip their beak in some vitamin-fortified water and sprinkle some chick starter on paper towels that they can pick at. So done, and they immediately tucked in.



Dan took some "chick pics", and I think I will call this photogenic blond "Cindy".

September 18, 2014

Holy vaca!, as my friend Pat would say

Having lived in the Pacific Northwest we know what rain looks like, especially this kind of rain which is basically living in a cloud. No light, no visibility, just wet drip. Outside humidity is 98%, and UV is 0 out of 12. To right now Odile has left us 3.9 inches and it will not taper off until later today. At this rate I am happy that it is just a steady drip, rather than a downpour. It has been an amazing 10 days in the desert.



There are puddles everywhere, the horse stalls are flooded, and Emma is reluctant to venture outside as the towel will be waiting. How can a Labrador who loves water take exception to a bit of rain?


Buggsy: what has happened to my room and to the world in general?

September 17, 2014

O after N

It is a bit unusual to have two tropical storms in a row give us rain, but it was Norbert last week and now it is Odile. Norbert roared in and out with heavy rain and was gone in a day, Odile is slow and gentle and appears to hang around for most of the week. Temperatures are in the 70's and we are enjoying having the house open day and night.


The hummingbird migration continues unabated, which seems longer than past years, and I am making a lot of sugar water. The bats come at night to the one feeder I leave out and that contributes, but bats need to eat, and migrate, too. Can't supply nectar to those with pretty feathers only.


The garden is enjoying the rain, though I have pulled up a lot of plants already because they were "done". Peppers are still going strong.

September 9, 2014

Norbert


Leftovers from hurricane Norbert arrived here late yesterday morning and dumped 1.75 inches in a couple of hours at the WD. Thankfully nothing like the record setting amount in Phoenix, or the more than 2 inches that fell in Tucson. We were driving on I-10 however and, in reading the reports this morning, we were lucky that we made it to our destination in one piece.

Rain in the desert does disappear quickly and this morning all is moist loveliness. Fog in the valley, so rather that take a chance on the bike, we walked around Black Tail hill.


September 5, 2014

How green it is


The plan was to go to Tucson today for some shopping, but it does not take us much to come up with an excuse why this trip should be postponed and something more fun to be undertaken. We opted for the Stronghold hike.

This past weekend the Forest Service opened the Stronghold campground after locking out campers from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Go figure, though I must admit that I welcome the closure as it allows the vegetation to recuperate from the hiking and horseback traffic during the rest of the year.


And green it was. There is still water running in the creek and Halfmoon Tank was full. Emma took a quick dip but the mosquitoes were a bit thick, even for her.


You would think that the desert is a tough place with the vegetation being forbidding and all defense-oriented with stickers and thorns, but when there is enough moisture it produces the most delicate flowers on the thinnest stems.



August 29, 2014

Late summer in our desert







It has been a lovely summer.

August 24, 2014

On the porch

The hummingbird migration is in full swing. Most of the birds are young adults and females of the black-chinned and rufous variety. We have 4 feeders out to minimize the territorial fights, and I make a lot of hummer juice every day. At night I take 3 of the feeders inside but leave one for the bats. The lesser long-nosed bats fly against the feeder and sip the nectar that spills out. This morning this guy was taking a rest above the back door.



The other day we saw this giant moth, also on the porch. He was 6 inches wingtip to wingtip and obviously worse for wear. We have tons of moths here, but I had never seen one this large. It is a Black Witch Moth. There is a lot of folklore about this moth, which is also known as the Mariposa de la Muerta. Thankfully, neither one of us is sick. And, if we had found him above the front door, we would have won the lottery. Well, darn.

It is hard to believe, but as I am writing this a new family of scaled quail walked by with a dozen golfball-sized chicks. It has been a great monsoon season.

August 17, 2014

Here is looking at you

Every month has its own insects here, and late summer is time for the praying mantis. I think they are such cool animals: they seem to be aware of you and yet are unafraid. Sometimes when there is one in a plant I am watering they come out to where I can see them, waving their arms as if to say: "hey you idiot, I am getting wet down here".



Dan rescued this mantis from the ceiling of the garage. No idea how it got there but it was happy to be transported to a butterfly bush where it blended in perfectly.

August 14, 2014

Summer storm


Last night when we came outside to put the chickens to bed and take fly masks off the horses, the sun had already set and everything was bathed in golden light. A huge rainbow was overhead and we were surrounded by thunderstorms. Dan took some stills and also this short video.

Towards the end you will see a ladderback woodpecker appear who pops into the hole in the agave stalk where he was hatched. So cool!

video

If you have a device that does not support Flash (shame on Apple), you can also see the video here https://vimeo.com/103447745. What a gorgeous time of year.

August 13, 2014

Hummers on the move

August is the month for the hummingbird migration, and it is when we see the largest number of hummers in the year. There are always some around, with only one or two during the winter, but I am filling feeders every day now. Most abundant are the black-chinned, but during migration we also have the rufous hummingbird. They are small birds, but what they lack in size they make up for in feistiness. We call them "Rufio" (as in the movie Hook - how I will miss Robin Williams).

video

The rufous travel the furthest of all hummers: they breed in Alaska and spend the winter in South America. Such an amazing little bird. No wonder he monopolizes the feeder: he needs the calories.

August 11, 2014

A doggone good time (by Emma)

This morning we met our friend Mary, who lives with my half sisters, at the Cochise Stronghold for a short walk and a dip.


Who is coming? Is it Mary with Emily and Claire? Oh, yes!


We ran up and down the trail.



Took a dip in the creek. We got nice and wet.


We all ate grass, and some of us threw up.


I really like going out with them. We all had a wonderful time.