I put together a video to demonstrate just why we made sure our chicken yard was very secure... The images in the video aren't new, but some of them are new to YOU! *grin*
Video Description: I use a Leaf River trail camera to see what kinds of critters visit the chicken coop at night. Here are some images and video clips I've captured, of unwelcome guests at the chicken coop. The wire around our chicken yard goes all the way to the roof. While it may LOOK like there are gaps in the wire, that's only because the wire doesn't show up in the video. The covered (roofed) chicken yard is 10x10, and connects to a larger (uncovered) 30x40 yard. I shut the gait to the larger yard at dusk, to ensure no predators can get into the chicken house, or into the covered yard.
Thank you for all of your wonderful comments on the Tattler re-usable canning lid post. And extra thanks to those of you who even shared recipes! What a treat!
I posted the salsa article and Tattler give-away info on my GRIT magazine blog as well. To combine all of the comments received in both locations, I pasted everyone's name into a spreadsheet (removed a few duplicates that were posted), and went out to random.org to generate a number.
The random number between 1-113 that was selected was #89.
And I see on my commenter spreadsheet that #89 is Carol Dee!
Carol Dee, please get in touch with me and I will assist with communications with Tattler to get some lids sent out to you.
We've had quite a lot of ripe tomatoes harvested this week, and we haven't been able to keep up with the harvest just by having fresh tomatoes. So, I decided to make some SALSA! I wanted to make a recipe that included fresh cilantro, but couldn't get my hands on any. And I haven't come across any cilantro seed either, so I haven't been able to grow my own in the garden.
So... when I was at the grocery store I picked up a little packet of dehydrated salsa ingredients (dried peppers, onions, herbs and seasoning) and used the recipe on the back of the packet along with the fresh tomatoes. The recipe couldn't get any easier ... chopped tomatoes, the ingredients of the packet, and 1/2 cup vinegar. (If you don't have fresh tomatoes on hand, store-bought canned/diced tomatoes can be used.) I chose to freeze one quart of the salsa to see if we like the result of it being frozen, and then canned the rest of it for longer shelf-life storage.
(Photo from Tattler's website) I recently got some reusable canning jar lids by Tattler and thought this would be a great time to try them out. I've been using regular metal canning jar lids for our canned goods, but don't like that metal lids are really just a "one time wonder" when it comes to using them for preserving. (I do reuse the metal lids that are in good condition to cap jars that aren't being canned/sealed.)
Something else that's concerning is that I've noticed that metal canning lids are not always available in local stores. There always seems to be a few boxes of jars available, but extra lids aren't always in stock. Last time I bought a box of 12 metal regular sized canning lids (at a big-box store) I paid $1.63, and a box of wide mouth sized lids was $2.27. Investing in some reusable lids seems like a smart thing for me to do.
I like the fact that the Tattler lids are reusable again and again, that they're made with BPA-free materials, and that they're made in the US. I also like that they can be used in water-bath canners, pressure canners, and can even be used for vacuum-sealing!
I don't usually have trouble getting jars to seal, but since this was my first time using the Tattler lids, I kind of expected to have at least one or two seals fail simply due to my inexperience in using them. But I was very pleasantly surprised that every jar sealed up tight as can be! Beautifully! I also used Tattler lids to seal up a couple quart jars of yellow zucchini relish, and they turned out great, too!
Overall I'm pleased with the lids and the results. I opened up one of the salsa jars to test the seal and the salsa, and was impressed with both! Time for me to order up a few more boxes of Tattler lids and seals!
Would you like to try Tattler lids, too? I've arranged for the nice folks at Tattler to send one lucky (randomly selected) winner a box of 12 regular, and a box of 12 wide mouth lids. What a deal!! Leave me a note on this blog post and you'll be entered into the give-away. I would like to know what your favorite preserved food is, and what you enjoy preserving for you and your family. I will randomly select one winner on Monday morning, June 27th.
Now, where did that bag of chips go...
UPDATE: Comments for the drawing are now CLOSED. Thank you for all of your comments!
We finally got some much needed rain last night. Oooooh it smells so GOOD! So, since I didn't have to water the garden this morning, I took the camera around to see what some of the critters were up to.
If you have trouble viewing the video here on the blog, you can check it out here on YouTube!
Oh, and I've added a link to my YouTube channel on the right in the Sassy & Sweet Stuff list. All of the farm videos are there for your enjoyment. *grin*
Today and tomorrow's forecast is calling for highs of 94*. I can't tell you how REFRESHING that sounds! 10* cooler than it has been, and we're even seeing some clouds! Today is Summer Solstice, but I can't help dreaming of Autumn!! Of course, there are storms all around us and we aren't getting any rain, but at least the clouds are knocking the blister out of the temps.
Whipper Snapper is gearing up for the Fall/Winter release; you'll find details on their Facebook page where they've been sharing sneak peeks of images in the release. How exciting!!
I've been tracking the garden harvest on a spreadsheet, and thought I would share the summary of what we've brought in so far. Foods listed still with zero's either haven't started producing yet, or will be planted a bit later in the year, in the fall garden.
I've already made 1.5 pounds of zucchini candy, and a second batch is in the dehydrator as I write this. Yumm! I need to start making cucumber and zucchini relish, and zucchini bread, too! It's been sooo very hot, and soooo very dry that the garden is doing a bit of suffering. I don't think the zucchini and cucumber plants will produce as much as they would if the weather had been a little kinder to them. It's shaping up to be a miserable summer. But, starting Wednesday, the days start getting shorter! And that's a GOOD thing around these parts, as far as I'm concerned!
Hope you're having a fun weekend ... and HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!
I went out to lock up the chickens tonight (like I do every evening) and to make sure water containers and feeders were topped off. The ducks were quite upset, giving me all kinds of attention. Lots of quacking and carrying on. I have a duck that's been broody, and we've been nursing a sore foot pad on her, so I've been letting her sit on some eggs so she doesn't feel like she needs to be running around the chicken yard all day on her sore foot pad. Even she was off of her nest, quacking, and was quite upset about something.
I looked over at her nest and saw a RAT SNAKE had come through the chicken wire nearly 3' up the side of the fence and was investigating her eggs! No wonder she was so upset!!
Since our snake issues began, I've been carrying a two-way walkit-talkie so I can get Alan's assistance as needed. This certainly called for some much needed assistance! I voiced over the radio for him to grab my camera and come to the chicken yard, that there was a snake thinking about eating a duck egg!
In just the few minutes that it took Alan to get out to the chicken yard with the camera and his headlamp, the snake had already chosen his meal and was working on swallowing it.
Here is a series of photos for you .... since we had to experience this, it's only fair that you do too!! *grin*
I never thought I'd see this in MY chicken yard!! Duck eggs aren't small, or delicate, either! They easily fill the palm of my hand, and have a VERY tough shell.
We let the snake get the egg all the way swallowed, and then Alan placed a paper feed sack in front of the snake and with a long garden stake, encouraged the snake to go into the bag. At first it thought about escaping through the fence, but there's just no way it would have fit through 1" chicken wire having just swallowed the duck egg. It changed it's mind, and just like that, the snake was in the bag. Alan poked down the top of the bag, rolled up the top edge, and we went about the process of relocating the snake near a big open field and pond.
What we found interesting was that while the snake was working on the egg, and while the snake was in the bag while we transported it, it was shaking it's tail and mimicing the tail shake that a rattlesnake does. But this was just a rat snake ... trying to be extra scary, I guess. Believe me, it was scary enough just the way it was. What we also found interesting is that in just the few minutes that it took us to get to where we relocated the snake to, we couldn't even tell that it had swallowed that huge egg! Whoa!
Yesterday morning I saw another hog-nosed snake (only maybe 3' long one) in the zucchini bed in the garden. I'll be watching for that one to show up again, too. Jeepers... enough snakes already!!
In other LESS CREEPY farm news...
...Alan sold three of the calves today to a local fella. He may come back for Stanley too, when Stanley is old enough to take off his mama.
Yesterday evening, Alan and I were out in the garden (smashing cucumber beetles!). I turned to walk away from him and he told me to stop ... said that I had something on my, uhhhh, bummmm. With his gloved hand, he picked this fella off of my pants.
And I'm so glad he did! See all of the pokey tips? Those are stinging spines, filled with venom!
ACK! Imagine if I'd sat down not knowing what was on my backside!!!
This is a Automeris Io caterpillar. Read about them here and here. If you see one, do NOT touch it without gloves! It will cause you pain!
This evening just before sunset I was making my rounds through the garden. I heard a rustle in the leaves between two of the raised beds. Usually rustling in the leaves is caused by toads, but it was a bit early for toads to be out. I took a look around the edge of the raised bed and saw THIS!
"Ooooooooooooh, ALAN!!!!" Thankfully he was outside and could hear me calling his name and came to see what I needed. "Umm, help please!"
Just a couple of weeks ago (when I was reading about rat snakes after our last snake encounter) I read something about hog-nosed snakes and seeing the large black spots on this snake rang a familiar bell (though I remembered them as being called "pig-snouted" - HAA!) I never thought I'd SEE one! Especially so soon, and so CLOSE!
Alan stayed in the garden to keep the snake from slithering off, and had me get an empty feed bag and two long garden stakes. He set the empty bag down in front of the snake and using the long stakes encouraged the snake to move forward into the bag. He got the snake in the bag just like THAT! Lickety-split! In fact, I only got three photos taken before the snake was inside the bag, out of sight.
These snakes are not harmful, but they REALLY like to eat toads, and I rather LIKE the toads in the garden because they eat BUGS! And toads are not SCARY, like snakes! So we relocated this snake to an area near a large pond and a large field, away from homes. It just hung out in the grass when Alan dumped it out of the feed sack.
And then it flared it's spots at me when I took it's photo ... ack!
I don't really like snakes, at ALL... Stay outta my garden, you SNAKE!
Found this cute little, not much more than 1" long, Praying Mantis (my favorite garden bug) in the garden early this morning, having breakfast. Looks to be the last of a cucumber beetle.
Don't be shy, have another bite! In fact, have another BEETLE!
I found the mantis on a zucchini plant leaf. There are loads of mantis in the garden, which is a great thing to see. They eat lots and LOTS of bugs!
The grasshoppers are starting to do lots of damage to the bean bed, and I'm seeing some grasshopper damage on some of the rattlesnake pole beans. You'll probably laugh, but last night, between 11pm - midnight, I spent about an hour in the garden snipping grasshoppers (and other bad bugs) into bits with my garden snips. They don't move so fast at night, and are easy prey as they sit on top of leaves, on the trellis wires, etc. Mwhahahahahaaaa!! Makes me feel so EVIL! *grin*
The pumpkin plant is a good distance from the garden, at the end of the drain field. Growin' good!
The cucumber vines are LOADED with blooms, and I'm finally starting to see female flowers and itty bitty cucumbers. Now let's hope the pollinators do their job for me! There aren't enough hours in the day for me to hand pollinate the cucumber flowers.
The Juliet tomato plants have big clusters of tomatoes, like this one. This one got so heavy and kept resting on the ground, so I had to give it a little support tie to keep it up off of the soil. I wish it wasn't quite so HOT here ... we'd have even MORE tomatoes than we do! High temps like we've been having keep flowers from pollinating, and tomatoes don't set. Bummers. But the plants have lots of tomatoes that it needs to put energy into growing, so all is not lost.
Here is Shorty, checking in on the okra plants. I have to keep them wrapped, or Shorty (and the armadillo) dig them up. Shorty is such a good helper. Eventually, when the plants are bigger, I'll remove the netting and the tomato cages.
Today's forecast is promising a high of 99*. Tomorrow's forecast is promising a high of 99*, too. Jeepers... Time to get the frozen water bottles in the chicken waterers. I'd best gather eggs early in the day, too! Don't want those chickens brewing up any deviled eggs when I'm not lookin'!
The purple pole beans are putting on blooms, but no beans just yet. I think they're so pretty as they grow up the wire trellis.
We've got a wild mama cat who has 5 kittens under our shed. They stay out of the heat, and lay in the shade. Oddly enough, the girl kittens are the friendliest of the bunch. Usually the boys are. When they're old enough they'll go to the vet for a little snippity snip! Alan thinks he might be able to catch the wild mama next week now that the kittens are old enough to eat kitty food and spend the night away from their mama while she's at the vet's office for snipping! This little gal is a cutie, isn't she! I think I'll tell Alan her name is Tangerine. Unless you want to ADOPT her, and then you can name her anything you'd like! *grin*
There's a sweet little torty-grey female, too. She has the cutest nose and broken stripes.
But don't let these sweet faces fool you ...
The rattlesnake pole beans have almost all sprouted around the tee-pee trellis, and I can't wait to see them start vining up the poles! I took this photo two days ago, and already the plants look noticably different, now that they're starting to get more leaves. It's amazing how quickly things change.
Here was the garden on May 1...
And here is the garden as of June 1! BIG difference! (Click image for a larger view...)
Remember our little house chick, Dolly? Well, seems that Dolly thinks SHE is a HE, and is practicing crowing. Yes, yes it's true. Just little squeaks, but that's CROW enough for me! Dolly lives outside now, in a fancy new brooder with two chick-sized friends. Happy as can BE, wild frizzled feathers, and all!
Dolly, looking down into the brooder at his friends, who are cheeping wildly, apparently lost without him.
So, speaking of summer ... did you see this image predicting how summer weather is going to progress? UNCLE!!!
I think that calls for daily dips in the pool. Bottom's Up! Whipper Snapper Designs: Poolside Chicken - #CT954
Sayin' hi to his mom who had gone into the larger barnyard to snack on the hay while little one napped under a shade tree. They greeted each other through the fence ("You ARE my mom!"), and then he bounced his way through the open gate to join her.