Winter weather in Texas! Fun!! Here are a couple of photos I took from underneath our back porch of the tree that's right next to the house. I'll be going out later, when it's safe to take the camera out and about (no way am I taking it out in the sleet that's coming down now!) to see what else there is to see! I imagine the ice is going to get a bit thicker with the moisture that's coming down now.
The carton is an extra-jumbo sized carton (notice, only 10 spots) I use for eggs that are too large to fit in regular egg cartons. Some of our Golden Comet and Black Star hens, as well as a couple of the ducks, lay MASSIVE eggs that don't fit in regular egg cartons. So, I buy these extra-jumbo sized cartons for them. That's a duck egg in the back right corner.
Today there was a surprise in one of the nest boxes .... a GIANT goose egg! Thelma has been protecting that particular nest box for a few days, and now I know why! She wanted it to be ready when she was!
It was a strange week around here... for those of you who don't know, we live in the town in Texas that dealt with the November 14th Chevron gas line fire. Our entire town (of about 700 people) was evacuated for a little more than 2 days. Parts of town closest to the fire location continue to be evacuated. Our farm is located at the very edge of the city limits (and evacuation area). Thankfully we were able to stay at the farm and Alan's parents were able to stay with us (they live where the evacuations were in place).
No one was injured, and we give thanks to the local responders who helped keep our community a safe, and secured area.
This is the photo I took with my phone, before running into the house to get my "real" camera. The sun was still completely behind the cloud. By the time I got back outside with my camera, the sun had dropped just below the cloud.
If you'd like to see more sunset photos, check out the Weather category for posts about all kinds of weather... sunsets, heat, rain, etc.
This afternoon, we welcomed a new little heifer calf to the farm! Darcy delivered this little cutie! And she is a wee little thing ... one of the smallest calves we've had! She's full Dexter, and look at those big, beautiful eyes! Can't wait until I can get photos of her face in sunlight! She was happy to stay in Darcy's shade today.
*I LOVE BABY COWS!*
With all the rain that's been falling in various parts of Texas, just NOT on us, we finally got a bit of it! Unbelievably, one small storm popped up yesterday and passed right over us yesterday, early evening. Even though it was small, it was mighty! It delivered 1" of rain to the farm in less than an hour. I got outside just in time to get some shots of just how dark and menacing the clouds were, before they were upon us.
Alan found a nest made of twigs and leaves that Thelma (one of our Brown African Geese) made. And in it, a pretty white goose egg! I love how her nest is complete with one squeaky dog toy, one plastic scoop, and 8 inches of green cording. Looks like she found some treasures she wanted to decorate her nest with.
In the past three days, we have had some fairly spectacular skies. The scattered thunderstorms over central Texas, while not actually giving us much more rain than we received over the weekend, are providing lots of sky eye-candy. The photos I'm sharing on this post are from today (Thursday), Wednesday, and Tuesday of this week.
The first few photos are of tonight's sunset. I didn't think it would amount to much, but it actually turned out quite nice.
These colors always remind me of western paintings by Charles M. Russell.
YESTERDAY: Storms sailed just past the farm (both sides!) not leaving us with a drop of rain. But we did get to see that pretty cloud formation in the distance. This was taken hours before sunset, but look how dark it was under those clouds!
TUESDAY: The sky was quite different on Tuesday! When I was on the other side of town delivering eggs, the storm off in the distance was really something! The storm was coming up from the south, and I was convinced with all that was coming our direction that we'd get some rain. Nope. It split in half and went right around us.
As unheard of as it is, we've had unseasonable cool temperatures for the past few days, and yes, even RAIN! We received 2" of the beautiful liquid over the course of Saturday and Sunday. We didn't get as much as some neighboring areas (3, 4, even over 8 inches!), but we're happy with what we did recieve.
Moose wasn't too thrilled with the rain. He did enjoy the 30 degree drop in temperatures, but he's not too fond of rain. Maybe if he hadn't torn off the cap and all the patches Alan made for his dog-loo, he wouldn't have a leaky hut! He survived hanging out on the porch... barely, if you ask him.*grin*
I'll take the rest of July just like this, please and thank you! This Pacific Northwest girl LOVES rain!
This time of year we seem to have a higher number of wildlife "rescues". Usually it involves baby birds that have launched themselves out of their nest. Last night we had a rescue that was a bit out of the ordinary! Alan was outside checking on things before we turned in for the night. One of our dogs was in the front yard barking, and when Alan went to see what was so exciting, he found this itty bitty skunk standing in front of the dog.
It is about the age in which the babies start following their mothers around, learning how to forage for food. We can only assume that the mother wandered off a little too quickly when the dog came into the yard, leaving the little one behind. The baby is lucky that we have friendly dogs!
While I stayed with the little one taking photos, Alan gathered an opened top box out of our recycling, some kitty food, and the "grabbers" (you know, those arm extension squeezy things). It was quite simple to "grab" the baby with the grabbers (no human/skunk contact was made), place it in the box with a bit of kitty food, and leave the box in the yard where Alan first saw the baby. With the dog out of the yard, we were confidant the mother would return looking for her wee one.
And, thankfully, there was no "stinking" involved!
I have more garden photos to share with you. I'm happy to know that the garden posts are enjoyed. Our garden is far from perfect. Each year it has it's challenges, and this year is no different. I've learned so much from gardening in Texas, and am fairly certain that if I can have success here, I could have a successful garden just about anywhere!
We've never had much luck growing watermelon, but I wanted to try again this year. And what do you know, we have little mellons all over the place! This year I placed soaker hoses in the rows where the watermelons are planted. I think it's making all the difference in their success this year.
I'm trying a new winter squash this year - Bush Buttercup. The squash are growing beautifully! Hopefully, the plants can survive to harvest time! I've found some squash bugs out there, so hopefully they don't do the plants in.
There are watermelons planted at both ends of the garden. Little round sugar baby melons at one end, and yellow moon and stars watermelons at the other. The plants have completely taken over the walkway down the center of the garden. They are loaded with blossoms, and bees!
The MASSIVE yellow pear tomato plant has lots and LOTS of tomato clusters, just waiting to ripen! I've been enjoying the ripe ones right off the plant in the morning when I water. Fresh tomatoes for breakfast ... you bet!
This is the full yellow pear tomato plant. It's well over 6' tall, and since it's planted in the trough, I'll be dragging a ladder out to the garden when it comes time to harvest all the tomatoes towards the top! They're WAY up there!
In this part of the garden are more tomato plants. There is the volunteer front and center, as well as a husky cherry red, and a couple super sweet 100's planted in large blue tubs. There are also tomato plants in the small trough you can see in the distance.
The oldest of the super sweet 100's is already loaded with young fruit. The other two plants, which I planted a bit later, are coming along nicely, but have a lot of work to do yet before they start setting clusters of tomatoes like this. I think we'll be tomato-rich, soon!
Husky Cherry Reds are a new variety for me this year. I wasn't too sure about giving them a try, but after I did a bit of reading about them online, I thought we'd give them a try. I must say, I'm really pleased with them! Their plants are not as tall and gangly as other cherry tomato variety, and in fact, really are quite "husky". They held up to our spring winds beautifully! And boy, are they ever LOADED with fruit! Clusters like this throughout the entire plant! I would certainly grow these again.
I mentioned in part 1 of this garden post that the volunteer tomato plant is LOADED with blossoms. I wasn't kidding. Here is just one of the branches ... and each branch looks like this. The plant has set a lot of fruit, so if it manages to set these as well, whoa, will we have some tomatoes! Not bad for a volunteer. I'm kind of interested to see how it performs so I'm not planning on topping it off. I'll just keep watering it, and see how it grows. We're supposed to have some relatively "normal" weather for a while, so growth in the garden should be interesting to watch.
And finally, the friends in the dill. We are up to at least 4, possibly 5, swallowtail caterpillars in the dill now. This little guy is only about 1" long. It's kind of painful to watch them as they munch on my dill, but I'm willing to share with the butterflies.
Hope you're enjoying the weekend, and the last bit of June!
I took a couple photos in the garden this morning. It's a jungle out there! I hope to get more photos this evening. I usually take garden photos in the evening since the light is better, so hopefully things won't be all wilted down from today's heat. These two beds in front of the chicken house are doing great! The front bed is Patty Pan squash, and a few salad slicing cucumbers in the back corner on a trellis. The back bed is three Cherokee Purple tomato plants, and three zucchini plants. These beds are always great producers, since they're protected from the southern winds by the chicken house. I have a late-planted black cherry tomato in the blue tub at the end of the raised bed. It's growing beautifully, and I can't WAIT for those little tomatoes!
The tomato plants are doing well this year. And that makes me wish I'd planted more! I have a couple of volunteer tomato plants that are completely LOADED with blooms right now. One of them is right in the front/center of this photo. There are so many blooms on the plant! I'll snap a detail photo later so you can see all the blooms ... it's crazy, really!
You can also see the pumpkin plant has started taking over the yard, and behind that you can see the cucumber bed has completely grown out into the grass as well. There's a 6' tall yellow pear tomato plant in the large aluminum trough towards the back of the garden, which is now so tall I can no longer reach the top of the plant without a ladder. It's loaded with blooms as well, so I hope this weekend's heat doesn't ruin the possibility of fruit setting.
Stay tuned for more! *grin*
Some insects really aren't welcome in the garden, but I'm willing to share my dill with the lovely monarch swallowtail butterfly caterpillar. (Thanks for the correction, Shala!) I spotted two of them in the dill earlier this week, when they were but little tiny things. They've really grown! The larger of the two is not quite as big as my pinky finger.
We also have two American Painted Lady caterpillars in the dill right now, munching away. The Painted Lady's are a bit small for getting any sort of in-focus images of. I'll give them a couple days to grow -- they're about as long as lady bug larvae at this point -- and I will snap some pics when they get a bit larger.
And I keep meaning to get some new photos of the garden! It's been a month since my last update, and things have really changed! Maybe tomorrow... *grin*
Earlier this evening, we were supposed to get a nice bit of rain ... some much needed rain. But instead, we watched the storm blow right on past, missing us by mere miles, and didn't get one bit of the much needed moisture. But, I did gimp on out to the end of the driveway and snapped some nice photos!
Earlier this week I was checking on things out at the hen house. We have a duck that has a bum foot so I like to let her sit when she wants to so she's not being pestered by the boy ducks. Seems she sat long enough to brew up a baby! I'm just glad I was out at the hen house when I was, and saw the baby when I did! It would have surely been killed by the chickens when they came into the hen house for the night. I brought it in the house until Alan and I could try to reunite it with it's mother that night.
Later that night, Alan and I tried placing the baby back with its mother but she didn't want anything to do with it. And since we've been having trouble with rat snakes in the hen house, we decided to keep it as a house baby until its large enough to be outside. Quack!
She kept me company today while I hung out on the couch with my foot up. Soo cute and such a snuggler!
Remember our grasshopper infestation? Sooo not fun. Disgusting, actually. We are doing what we can to keep the numbers down to something a little less horrific. We have free-ranging chickens, ducks, and guinea, and lots of wild birds coming in to eat. We have most of the area around the house and yard mowed to discourage the grasshoppers from moving between pastures and the yard/garden area. But it wasn't knocking down the population like we needed.
I'm still using organic methods in the garden -- even relocating wheelie bugs and ladybugs to the garden when I find them other places on the farm. But when the numbers of grasshoppers creep up in the tall grass and trees in and around the yard, we spray those areas with a Malathion/water mixture. It's a little more serious than we normally use on the farm, but is still a garden-safe method of control.
During the day, grasshoppers are very active and hard to control. But at night grasshoppers stop feeding and climb up out of the grass and perch themselves along the edges of the pastures on the tall grass stems, along the fence wires, on trees, and weeds. And there they sit, waiting for us to make our way around the yard wearing our headlamps, armed with a sprayer. And yes, I still have grasshoppers in the garden. But not nearly as many as I would have if we weren't able to control the population in the areas around the yard.
So how about a small garden tour!
This yellow pear tomato plant is also amazing -- it's HUGE, and has officially reached the top of the 4' cage around it. The plant next to it (can't remember what it is!) is doing really well too, but there just aren't a lot of flowers on either of these plants. Some flowers, but not a lot. Maybe I need to supplement with some phosphorus to encourage flowers. I use bone meal when I prep the beds for planting, but maybe adding some worm casting tea might be beneficial. Hopefully I can encourage these two to put on more flowers!
I have cucumbers growing in several areas, but this is the largest area. A full 4'x8' bed of them, and they are quickly vining out of the bed's edges. Under those leaves are a bazillion flowers! And we've even picked a couple cucumbers! I think they are enjoying not being trellised this year.
The pumpkin is doing well (for just being old seeds tossed at the edge of a zucchini bed), and the zucchini and other squash plants are looking healthy. In the blue tub at the left are some mini white cucumbers, a great little variety that is really fun to grow!
Here's some organic bug control in the garden ... ducks! Chickens can be really hard on a garden since they're really drawn to eating leaves and small tender fruits, and like to take dust baths in the soft soil -- which isn't so great for plants. But ducks and guinea are great in a garden! They are more focused on bugs! They pull them right off the stems and leaves, and the ducks also root around the edges of the garden beds where other insects like to hide during the day.
I am treating myself to a 4-day weekend! Yay! Since we are running low on all the basics, I made a run to the grocery store and farm supply store today. Along the way I passed two gorgeous fields of blooming sunflowers. I had to stop and snap some photos. I only had my phone with me for the photos, so you can bet Alan and I will be making a trip back down there tomorrow or Saturday so I can take the "real" camera!
Happy Thursday to you!
The garden with two rows is the new area we put in a year ago. Here I'm growing various squash (spaghetti, acorn, 8-ball, yellow, black zuc), watermelon, and some cantaloupe melon. Just yesterday I put down soaker hoses along the tops of the rows and covered the hoses with compost to help with water conservation. This bed gets a LOT of southern wind, which is very hard on the plants. So, just out of view on the right side of the garden I put an aluminum windbreak in place. You'll probably see parts of it in other photos.
Last year we pulled the two large metal troughs out of the barn to use in the garden. They're completely full of holes and I thought they would make great beds for the garden. I was RIGHT! There are two tomato plants in each trough, as well as either spinach or radishes to fill in the growing space. This trough happens to be a Sweet 100 tomato, and a yellow pear tomato, along with spinach (which I need to pick!) I have a couple pieces of plastic roofing temporarily clipped to the trellises to block the strong southern wind we were getting today.
Behind the troughs are nine 4'x8' beds (two I'm not using this year), three 3'x5' beds, and lots of large containers.
This is the main area of the garden (click photo for larger view). Where we live does not have the best soil for gardening, and we don't have a tiller, so I do my best to grow in raised beds or large containers with a mixture I create using our soil, farm compost, and sandy soil we had delivered a couple of years ago. The large blue tubs are not my favorite visually, but they are great for what I use them for. Alan buys the tubs in the winter for the cows. They're filled with a hard sticky mess that the cows just love to lick on. When the tub gets emptied, it becomes mine for the garden! We drill holes in the bottom for drainage, set them on a couple inches of gravel, and I fill them up!
In the tubs I grow things like tomatoes, mint, small cucumbers, herbs, and even flowers. This is a new tomato variety for me this year. Husky Cherry Red -- and boy are they not kidding about this thing being "husky"! Some of the branches are as big as my thumb! It holds up GREAT in the wind, so I'm hoping it puts out some nice fruit. It might be a good variety to grow here, if the tomatoes are good!
In front of the chicken house are two 4'x8' beds. The back bed is filled with three black zucchini and three Cherokee Purple tomato plants. The front bed has some small watermelon (backside), and three monster sized Patty Pan squash plants. I also have a small grouping of cucumbers set to climb up a half circle trellis in one corner.
Here is the backside of the bed that is just in front of the chicken house. Plants always do super well in this bed, where they are protected by the chicken house from the southern winds. What a jungle.
In front of the chicken yard is the tee-pee trellis we built last year. This year I decided to just plant a grouping of sunflowers in that area. The HUGE plants closer to the fence are volunteer sunflowers that popped up in the grass. As far as I'm concerned, sunflowers can grow any where on the farm they'd like and volunteers are always allowed to grow. In the blue tub is a Black Cherry Tomato, just transplanted and trellised today.
Back in the main garden area, I have a 4'x8' bed of red beets ready to harvest. They're destined for pickling! Yum! Not sure what I'll plant in this bed once the beets are pulled. Decisions, decisions!
I had several OLD packages of basil and dill seed I thought I'd just toss into this large aluminum tub. I wasn't sure the seeds would germinate ... the packages said 2005 on them. I guess they were OK afterall! Haa!
This year instead of trellising all of the cucubmers, I thought I'd try growing an entire bed of them on the ground without a trellis. We just get so much wind here and the vines get really dried out. I thought maybe they'd do better if kept lower to the ground. We'll see. They're just now starting to flower. I'm already battling cucumber beetles, and have lost a few plants to wilt. I have cucumbers in several locations, so hopefully we'll get enough for us while battling the bugs.
I haven't been short of challenges this year. I thought we'd be able to get a good jump on the garden, getting seeds in the ground in February in time for some good spring rains. But, I was wrong. We didn't get the rains we expected, and the ground temperature wasn't ideal for sprouting seeds. Much of what I seeded didn't even come up. And then we had a frost, and I lost a good portion of what had sprouted.
I think I was expecting a spring like we had last year, where the garden was in full harvest by the first of June. So, mid-April, I reseeded most of the garden (even using old seeds, if I had them). We might have some surprises, since when I replanted, I didn't exactly write down what I planted in every location. I'm sure I have a few of the squash plants mixed up. Oh well!
I sure hope we have a good harvest this year.... and if you garden, I HOPE YOU DO, TOO!!
I knew exactly what I needed to be looking for...
This is the first Tobacco Horn Worm I've found in the garden this year. Longer than my middle finger, and about as big around. I know there will be others, so I will have my eagle eyes on the tomato plants from now on. Horn worms cause great damage to plants. Thankfully, they're easy to pick off, and easy to dispose of. The ducks LOVE them!
Don't remember my first ever encounter with one of these monsters? Read about it and see more detailed photos, and even learn the difference between Tobacco Horn worms and Tomato Horn Worms.
Learn even more about the Tobacco Horn Worm, or Manduca Sexta.
Hope you're not tired of weather photos ... but I thought I would share this shot of last night's sky, taken after the afternoon thunderstorm passed through. We got a wonderful bit of rain, and it dropped the air temperature down over 20 degrees. Perfect!
And if you're wondering about the view in the direction of the setting sun..
Sunsets are one of the, umm, two things I like about Texas. *grin* And last night the sunset was another beauty. It was very cloudy and grey early in the evening, and I didn't think we'd see any sunset at all. Alan and I were sitting in the living room, when out the window I saw the light had changed and was completely different. Everything was gold and glowing! The sun had dropped beneath the storm clouds and was casting beautiful gold light on everything around us. Outside I went, camera in hand.
We had kind of an usual sunset last night. Thankfully, I was outside at the time and was able to run in and grab the camera before the color was gone. Everything was pink -- it was the strangest color cast!
We had some storms to the west of us but the clouds weren't high enough to block the setting sun. The humidity did block much of the sun's light though, which made it possible to look at the sun without being blinded from sunlight.
I was out picking some prickly lettuce for the geese this evening (it's their FAVORITE snack!) and came across a few (5 to be exact) juvenile wheelie bugs! I went inside, grabbed my camera and macro lens, and headed back outside with a bug jar.
These bugs are about a quarter their soon to be adult size. Wheelie bugs (aka assassin bugs) are GREAT bugs to have in the garden! They are a predator insect and instead of eating plants, they dine on bugs that do! Like soft bodied caterpillars and beetles. After I snapped a few photos, I carefully plunked 5 bugs into my bug jar and scooted out to the garden and set them free.
And you know what!? It's almost FRIDAY! Yippeee!!
This chick was also a temporary house guest. At a fairly young age she seemed to develop a palsy which made life in the coop with the other chickens very difficult. She had a hard time keeping up with the other babies, had a hard time keeping herself on her feet, and had a tendency to get stuck places she couldn't get herself out of. So while I was out west visiting friends, Alan brought her inside for extra TLC. I love coming home to house chickens! *grin*
Anyway, I thought you might like a little update on this little cutie!
Turns out, she wasn't a she after all, but a HE! After a few weeks of in-house TLC, he showed great improvement. While he still gets the shakes and sometimes completely topples over, it's not as frequent as before. He now has much better control over his muscles. He returned to the coop with the others, but has his own 3'x4' brooder to hang out in when he has difficult days. I call it his bachelor pad. He's face to face with all the other chickens, and sings to all the ladies.
But, do you think we could get them to sit side by side!? No way...
I am really enjoying them. I haven't NAMED them yet, though.... *ugh!* I just can't decide! It would really help if I knew their genders, but I don't want to insult them by attempting to check. This is the older of the two, and I have a feeling it's a male. Their personalities are quite different. This one LOVES me. Love to be held, climbs up on my lap if I'm sitting in the grass, follows me anywhere.
This is the younger of the two, and I have a feeling this one is a girl. This one is not as attached to me as the other. It does NOT like to be caught, but once I've got her, she enjoys being held. She is much more independent than the older one.
I found this card in my files and don't think I've shared it with you yet. I used one of my favorite (and old) PSX stamps, along with a sentiment from one of my Whipper Snapper cling sets to make this card.
We've been crazy busy this week, and I just haven't had as much time for blog updates as I would like. I guess that's bound to happen now and then. We had a bit of a cold spell and it was feeling a bit more like winter, rather than spring! But spring weather is back in our forecast again. The grass and wildflowers should grow, grow, GROW!
The garden isn't nearly as far along as I would like. In fact, the cucumber seeds I planted WEEKS ago are just starting to sprout! But, at least I didn't lose any plants during the cold weather we just had! I'll be getting tomatoes in the ground this weekend, and hope to finish seeding the rest of the garden as well. Wish me luck!
Let me be the first to wish you a very happy FRIDAY!
I am fairly certain your day wouldn't be complete without more baby photos, especially of KITTENS! This trio happens to be living in our equipment shed. Alan gave them a nice bed of hay, and they are happily out of the weather. Their mother is wild as can be, so we're a little surprised she has them where we can easily get to them.
Want to take the baby geese for a walk? I thought you might... *grin*
As always, if you're having trouble viewing the video here on my blog, you'll find it on my YouTube channel.
I thought it might be time for an update on Sweet Potato, the young heifer calf we got just after Thanksgiving and bottle fed. Here she is "mowing" the backyard and enjoying the lush vegitation that grows in the drain field. You can see her horns starting to come in.
She's getting so big! Maybe one of these days I'll actually get a photo of her next to one of our full-size Dexters. They're not the most cooperative critters when it comes to posing where I want them. *grin*
So, I mentioned last week that we welcomed a new little gosling to the farm. Well, we couldn't have just ONE, so late last week we also welcomed a second little one to the farm! (I already mentioned this on FaceBook, but haven't mentioned it here yet...) I thought I'd share some photos of them, enjoying some time on my crafting table. Isn't that what everyone has on their crafting table?! *grin* The youngest one, on the left, is the second one we brought home. The oldest one, on the right, is the first one we brought home.
We haven't settled on names yet. But we do have some considerations... Loosie, Raspberry, Zerbert, Doodles ... do you have a suggestion?
This is the younger of the two. She (we're going with that until we know for sure) was about 3 days old when I took these photos. She's more like 8 days old now, and I'm pretty sure she has doubled in size. Ha!
Want to see more!? How about in video form!?
And, as always, if you're having trouble viewing these videos here on my blog, you can find them here on my YouTube channel.
Cute, cute, CUTE!!!
I was cleaning up one of my camera's memory cards and came across some video clips I took last summer. I thought I'd mash them together into a short video for you .... it just cracks me UP! Moose and I were just returning from a walk, and when we walked by the barnyard Callio-Pea was so funny! And at the end of the video ... *HAHAHAA!* She's so wacky!
If you're having trouble viewing the video here on my blog, you'll find it here on YouTube.