Everybody needs a friend….

quailsI have to say our first ever attempt to hatch out quail eggs wasn’t terribly impressive. Out of 24 eggs, only 4 of them showed any signs of life – the other 20 were infertile. Out of the four fertile ones, two of the embryos didn’t develop beyond a few days, but two cute chicks hatched out! Unfortunately, one of the chicks failed to absorb the egg yolk prior to hatching, so he was born pretty weak and unfortunately made the transition to the big coop in the sky this morning. The other chick, which seems to be thriving, started peeping and chirping nonstop once she realized she was alone in the brooder. Since the sight of a lonely chick is heart breaking, I called the guy who had sold me the two breeding sets of adult quail, and he happened to have just hatched out a batch himself. I came home with four friends, and now everyone is happy again.

This was the same farm from which I procured Vinni and Luigi, and sadly Vinni seems johnnyto have disappeared. I don’t think she’s gone rogue and decided to become a wild forest guinea, because you can hear them from literally blocks away. My guess is she tangled with a coyote and lost, but I searched for hours and couldn’t find her body. It’s like she disappeared into thin air. Since I didn’t want Luigi to be alone either, I came home with a boyfriend for her! She and Jimmy hit it off right away, and after I let him out of the large kennel where he spent the afternoon acclimating to his new coop and introducing himself to everyone, he settled in on a roosting bar like he’s been here forever. The best part about getting a male guinea is we can hatch out little keets if we want to! (Luigi is a girl – she dots the “I” with a heart). I love visiting that farm, because there’s a whole flock of beautiful geese that run up to the fence and hiss and squawk and honk at you if you get too close. I love geese, and really want some, but for some reason, possibly because he was chased by them as a small child, Gene can’t stand them. I would have done what I normally do and “surprised” him with a few goslings, but I’m pretty sure that would be the same as asking for a divorce. He hates them that much. I’m hoping when we buy our dream farm, it will have enough acreage that I can sneak a flock in somewhere and he won’t notice.


turkey lovinSigns of spring are all over the farm – the cherry bushes are budding, the chicks are frolicking, and the turkeys are dating. All over the place. Everywhere you look, there’s some turkey loving going on. Until the ladies decide to go wander in the woods, probably looking for a break from Dimsworth and Hawthorne. It’s rather funny, the two boys are so large they tend not to wander far from the food and water bowls. But the ladies still love to explore, so they wander the back fence, then forget how to get back and start fussing. They have a very distinctive cry when they’re lost, and when I hear it I grab my boots and wrangle them back into more familiar territory. I can’t wait until they start laying eggs – if one goes broody I’m going to try and raise some chicks! Don’t tell Gene, though, he thinks six turkeys is six too many.

chickSpeaking of chicks, since the weather has gotten relatively nice, I decided to let Broody Mama raise her chicks outside instead of in the brooding box. They are all feathered out, and the last batch of chicks that stayed in the brooding box until they were a few months old seem somewhat agoraphobic. The fact that the feed store got in the first batch of spring chicks has nothing to do with it. But by happy coincidence, since we had an empty brooding box, I brought home six! I got all blue cochins, one of my favorite breeds. They’re huge and social, and look like they’re wearing feathered jumpsuits.

This is also the time of the year when I start to panic that I didn’t start enough vegetable photo 11 (3)seeds yet. Despite the bursting at the seams greenhouse, I’ve planted seeds in peat pots that now line the kitchen island and several windowsills. I’ve already had to re-pot several of the young plants, a job Ceri loves to help with. Mostly by lying in the dirt pile and supervising, but I appreciate the effort and the company. Poor Ceri just got over an ear infection, and we had her tested for allergies since her itching came back this spring despite buying her top of the line, incredibly expensive, I’m a picky puppy dog chow for the last year. I had to laugh when we got the test results back – in addition to mold, birch trees, goldenrod, grass, and several of the weeds commonly found in our yard, she’s also allergic to human dander. At least that makes us even – I’m allergic to her too. So now she gets an allergy pill every night, and I’ve learned how to give her allergy shots, which she gets three times a week. The worst part, in her opinion, anyway, is the weekly baths with special shampoo that has to soak on her fur for ten minutes. I would love to meet the genius that came up with that formula, and ask him for the magic secret to keeping a shepherd from shaking lather everywhere in the bathroom.

ferret bathCeri’s not the only one logging tub time this week, though. I didn’t want Raphael to feel left out of spa day, and since guests walk in the front door and ask if we have a ferret before they even see the cage, I thought perhaps a bath was overdue. He actually did really well – I won’t say he liked it, but I didn’t leave the experience with any new scars, either.

I guess fame monsters have to eat a lot

As you know I’ve been bragging all winter about growing strawberries in my greenhouseladybug throughout the long, cold, dark months. Apparently the aphids read my blog, because I went in Monday to grab a post-lunch fruit snack, and the strawberry plants were crawling with aphids. They were everywhere, all over the berries and all over the leaves. Luckily they didn’t effect the taste, but still, that’s gross looking and I’m all about presentation. But Fate apparently heard my mighty roar, because when Gene and I went to McClendon’s yesterday we found both ladybugs and preying mantis egg sacs for sale! We bought both, and I came home and unleashed a torrent of red-spotted google-eyed death from above all over the berry plants. Your move, aphids, your move.

I went back in today to water all thwillarde plants, and I didn’t see as many cheerful insects cavorting around as I would have expected out of a package containing 400 hundred or so. Since I had my camera with me, naturally Willard caught my attention. As I took frame after frame, I noticed a lady bug waddle into the viewfinder. It stood nose to nose with Willard as I frantically tried to refocus on what was sure to be the Cutest Picture Ever. I was using the zoom, of course, so I got a macro view of Willard slurping up the ladybug before I could even get a shot off. If you look closely at the picture to the left, you can barely make out the bulge in Willard’s throat as it makes it way into the afterlife. Naturally, I was devastated. Watching one cute thing swallow an even cuter thing whole, in zoom mode, was worse than the time I carefully saved a tiny water frog from being crushed by the pond liner, only to have a duck snatch it out of my hand then fight over it with another duck. We’ll just say both ducks won, and leave it at that.

Who would have thought an alligator would sell that fast????

So this afternoon, I did what I usually do after seeing Gene off to work – I sat down with a nice cup of herbal tea and perused craigslist. Imagine my delight and amazement when I saw somebody selling a 16″ alligator! A real one, they had a photo and everything, with the caption “Not a Cayman!” (Like I would know, or care; either way it looked badass.) In my haste to text Gene and ask if I could spend $200, I almost knocked over my tea. Sadly, by the time no less than three people had refused to give me two Benjies (thanks for nothing, Gene, Bess Bess, and Abigail), the alligator sold. Or the listing got yanked off craigslist, since I’m 99 percent certain it’s illegal to own or sell one without a whole pile of permits, which I’m guessing random craigslist guy didn’t have. But anyway, my point is, immediately write down the contact phone number for people whose ads are so sketchy they don’t stand a chance. Opportunity like that doesn’t knock often, and when it does, it doesn’t wait around for you to open the door.

luigiSince I won’t be photographing alligators cavorting in my backyard anytime soon, I settled for pointing the camera at Luigi who decided to make a rare appearance just in time to cheer me up. He was swinging gleefully from the filter, taking random snaps at passing shark tails. It shouldn’t be possible for crabs to smile, but tell me that doesn’t look like the world’s most mischievous crustacean.

I’ve created a monster…..a fame monster

I figured out the reason why I hadn’t seen Willard in so long; with the rainy weather I willard 1 wasn’t automatically bringing my camera to the greenhouse with me whenever I went in. The first day I spotted the frogs again, I happened to have the camera because I wanted to photograph the beautiful nectarine blossoms. Now I always have it with me since the plants and trees are starting to sprout, and I don’t want to miss a photographic moment. And apparently Willard doesn’t want me to miss getting him from a single angle, because now everywhere I look he’s artfully draped himself against a contrasting background. I swear I see him waving to me out of the corner of my eye if I happen to miss him posing. But if I don’t have the camera? It’s a froggie ghost town.

quailSadly, as much as Willard is the world’s biggest camera hogging amphibian, the quails are proportionately camera shy. They shun my go-to paparazzi moves, and even manage to thwart my stealth mode. Every picture I have of them is blurry, or it looks like they’re glaring at me in a way that can best be described as demonic thanks to the angle of their faces. In a good picture they manage to merely look constipated. I’m vexed for two reasons – Bessie really wants a picture of a cute, fluffy fat quail, and I need a good picture for the label on our quail egg cartons. I also need quail egg cartons to put said label on, but they’re almost impossible to find for less than $2 a carton. That’s like $2 without the eggs even in it. Sigh, obviously I’ll have to buy the cartons out of the proceeds from my 2014 “All Willard, All the Time” calendar. (I wanted to go with “It’s Willard Time!”, but I didn’t want people to associate me with that particular brand of beer).

Apparently I just wasn’t looking hard enough…

frogSo in my last post I wrote that I hadn’t seen the greenhouse frogs in awhile. Apparently I just wasn’t looking in the right places, because the very next day I went in there and two of them hopped across my path. Literally, about waist high. Those froggies can get some serious air. At any rate, I was very glad to see Willard and Bromier. I know there’s at least one other frog, because one of them is a chocolate brown and I haven’t seen her lately. Plus, they tend to hang out in groups of seven or so.

This year’s Giant Pumpkin is already big enough that all the frogs could host a party underneath its leaves if they were so inclined. I photo (5)need to figure out a better place to grow it, because the corner of a raised bed only resulted in a 100 lb. pumpkin. I want to get far closer to the promised one ton; I think the problem is other farmers provide up to 300 gallons of water a day for it. I’m no geologist (or whomever it is that studies ground water), but I think that amount of water every day for the summer would drain our well dry. Not that it wouldn’t be totally worth it.

It’s too bad it’s too cold to plant anything outside yet, because with all this rain there’s at least 300 gallons of standing water in our backyard at any given moment. Most of the chickens come out of the coop for about five minutes every morning, just long enough to eat the scratch grain I put down for them, then they roost up for the rest of the day. Gene’s going to have to reinforce the roosting bars if they get any fatter.

photo (6)Broody Mama and her five newly hatched chicks have it easy – they’re in the garage where it’s always 75 and sunny. Her chicks are really cute, but very camera shy. Even though I purposely let her sit on five different colored eggs, her chicks all look remarkably similar. I think Sean Paul’s genes are still haunting us.