That’s a Big One

Even not feeling great, I’m finding things to be excited about. I think that’s part of my charm. Perhaps. Today’s theme is big. For example, this is a big grasshopper, especially for a male. And it’s one of my better photos, right on my driveway!

Differential grasshopper, apparently tired, because he let me get really close. Note wings.

The extent of my walking yesterday was patrolling the back yard with Lee. While I regretted not meeting my activity goal, I still managed to find something big and beautiful. It’s one of my favorites, a yellow garden spider.

I had to take this over the fence. Notice her silver head. The scientific name, Argiope aurantia, means gilded silver-face.
This is her belly and some of her web. Obviously she’s an orb weaver!

And now, I’m sure you’ve been waiting for us to see what was inside Fancy Pants’s giant egg from a while back.

Giant egg!

It was still big after peeling. and still rather lumpy.

Peeled. Normal egg in background.

I got out the sharp knife and carefully sliced the big bruiser. Would it be a double yolk? Would it look weird?

That’s a BIG yolk.

I can’t tell if it’s double or not, but it sure is big! Way more yolk than white.

Compare to normal large egg. The normal one has way more white.

I wonder if this one would have had enough food in it to grow a chick? We will never know. But it does make me want to raise chicks. Maybe the next broody hen will get lucky!

So…what’s big in your life?

Buttercup the Hen Speaks Up

By Buttercup Wellsummer and Bruce Easteregger

BAWK! I’m Buttercup. I’m told I’m a Wellsummer hen. My friend, Butternut, and I have been living in a cozy place with a cozy inner safe space. We like it. It’s calmer since the giant gray chickens left. They were older and quite uppity. Hmph. One of them is already sitting in the leg-laying place.

Shut up, Buttercup. I’m cool and have all my wattles.
I laid an egg! It’s pink! So there, Buttercup!

Hey, I’m talking, Sapphire. We got to stay in our safe place, because we got extra-yummy food for growing but also on account of Butternut hurting her foot. The human with blue hair (she’d make a cool hen) didn’t want her getting hurt by the giant rooster or big hens on the outside.

I’m just looking for bugs over here. But yeah, I’m a bully. A very pretty bully.

We had a nice life. Butternut got better. We were good. Then, that dang human opened our doors! Other chickens came into our safe place! BAWK! We hid.

Sure, he’s a nice rooster, but he’s still a rooster!

We got braver when we realized bugs were out there. Mmmm. Bugs. We didn’t get many in our safe place. They escaped.

A bug! This is the life!

We stuck together. That’s how us chickens roll. We form little sub-flocks.

We survived sleeping last night and are feeling a lot better! I’m even joining the others by running up to the humans when they show up. We all like it when the human with the egg-shaped head opens our doors in the morning.

Look! I’m running with Gertie, who likes to chase me.

Butternut is still shy and hangs out in the safe place. She needs to get over it! It’s fun outside!

I’ll stay in here with Hedley. I’ll try to convince her to start laying again, says Butternut.

A Hello from Bruce’s Gang

COCK-a-DOODLE-DO! It’s me, Bruce, the crazy-looking rooster who everyone loves. I’ve been having so much fun lately!

Howdy! Isn’t my comb dashing?

Since Star and Sapphire got released from the other pen, where they were imprisoned with the Butters, we’ve formed a unit! These gals are strong, brave, and beautiful. My kind of gals.

We’ve been exploring all over our land now! There are so many places to check out. So many yummy bugs and plants!

Here we go, wandering around the humans’ pen.

We go into the place with big trees, which worries the humans, but we are fine. We also go hang out with the cows. Wow, there are so many bugs in the mud by their giant water hole. Yesterday, we tried to go into the human pen, but the human who loves the cows said we couldn’t. Bummer.

We just wanted to check for bugs in there! We provide a service!

We just keep going. We find yummy water in the big water holder near where the cows eat.

Love this greenish water. Humans are going to get fish to put in here. Wonder if we can eat them?

We hide under all the humans’ metal things. We eat!

Silly blue-haired human thought the gray hens were lost. This is a great hiding place.

Every night the human with the egg-shaped head shuts our doors so we can sleep in peace. Thanks, humans for the food and safety.

Why wasn’t I the star of this post?

Random Goodness

I may as well share the good and/or interesting stuff of the day. Maybe I’ll do this every so often.

First, I got the little bistro sets up in the break area by the stairs at the Pope Residence. They surprised me by fitting. I even ate lunch at one. Now that no one else eats in the office, I’ll fine solo in style!

Kathleen and I picked these out in hopes that they would fit.

And I opened the box with the dishes for the office. I just set out coffee cups, in case a visitor wanted some coffee. The rest are i. The cabinets for now.

If it’s deemed too junky, I can put them away.

So that was fun. I also had fun looking at birds this afternoon. I finally determined the small heron I keep seeing is a green heron. It was out with the blue heron behind the house, and while I was looking at them and turtles, I spied the BIGGEST bullfrog I ever saw. Turns out they can weigh up to 1.5 pounds!

There was no way to get a photo of the frog, but I did get a picture of this scary kissing bug. It will not give me Chagas’ disease because it is deceased. Buddhism fail.

Eek

The best news is this! We had four eggs today! That’s the first time I got four eggs since we built the hen house here by our house. Thanks, Springsteen!

Bertie, Fancy Pants, Springsteen, and Hedley.

By the fall molting season, we may have a few more kick in! It would be nice to be able to share them with friends and family before they shut down to molt.

Happy Farming

Everyone is finally settling in at the ranch. All the chickens seem to get along fine now that they’re free ranging. And a sign of this happiness was we had a three-egg day today, the first since Lacy Legs passed a few months ago. I’m grateful to whichever new pullet is finally laying!

New hen, Bertie, and Fancy Pants!

They are tons of fun to watch outside, and are friendly as heck. I gave them a big overripe tomato this evening, which led to great joy.

And little Rip is hungry as heck, which is great.

Mmmmilk

He even sucked on my finger today. He has a cute little black tongue and is quite gentle. I obviously could not get a photo of that, so here are his milky little lips.

More Little Bits of Goodness

Today has not sucked. Chris is back at work on the Pope house, so I got a glimpse of the stair rail progress. Ooh.

Rail in progress.

And I got an awesome mask from my friend Angela in Austin, who knows I love The Who. She made me one like her husband’s. I looked better in the picture where it’s upside down, so you get two pictures.

Plus! Look what I found today! That’s right, one of the “new” hens finally went into production! I think they may all have white eggs, so I don’t know who laid it. But yay.

White pullet egg.

And…it rained a little. Enough to cheer up the free ranging chickens (and guinea).

Clucking in the rain!

I hope you had some small bits of goodness today.

The Cochin Chickens Are Trouble

You may recall that I recently bought some hens, two of which were beautiful, fluffy Cochins. Fancy Pants, the gray one, was the biggest and prettiest, but she was never very active. Lately we’d been worried about her, because she never started laying, and her vent area got dirty.

Lacy Legs is in front. Fancy Pants is behind her.

Sadly, she passed away on Wednesday, when I was gone. Thursday was vet day. Sigh. Kathleen gave her a proper burial. We think she had reproductive issues.

Rest In Peace, pretty bird.

The other Cochin, Lacy Legs, did start laying, and produced small white eggs that shaded to brown. Note that I said produced.

From top right, clockwise: Jewel, Lacy Legs, Bertie Lee, Ginger

This week she went broody! Geez, she barely started laying! So now she won’t come out of the roosting area and makes laying hard for the other chickens, who all want to use the same nest box.

Grr. Leave me alone.

It ain’t easy to get the eggs out, either.

It turns out these little darlings are very prone to wanting to be moms, that is, set on eggs until they hatch. Brooding. Great. The wooden egg won’t hatch. The other hens’ eggs won’t hatch. We have no rooster.

Hey. You just left me that fake wooden egg.

So. Will she stop? I think Buffy did eventually. But I don’t know what to do. She is determined. I’ll see if anyone I know has some fertilized eggs she can hatch and fuss over.

More food for us! Penney wants that bread very much.

Meanwhile, the other chickens just keep eating and making infertile eggs.

Mad! Glad! Resourceful!

Why not cram three completely different stories in one blog post? Sure, I’m a wordy person, after all. Plus, I have stuff to do and it’s a beautiful day, so here goes.

Mad!

So, we need to wear scrubs at the Hearts Homes and Hands office much of the time, and the first ones I ordered supposedly fit right, but were a bit form-fitting to me. I ordered some more, including some of the incredibly comfy scrub yoga pants in happy colors.

They arrived today. I excitedly opened the package. Hmm. This looks pretty somber. What the heck?

Pretty consistent.

In the delivery were five black scrub shirts. A couple are pretty cute and they ARE in my size (or at least the size I prefer). But, hey, I wanted DC Action Heroes, some sloths, and some paisley! And no lime green pants! Hmph.

Customer Support said to send an email with a photo of the delivery and the packing slip (which had the right stuff on it). I sure hope I see my actual order soon. According to Kathleen and Lee, they’ve messed up most of our orders. Maybe we should try another company?

Glad!

There is more I am glad about than I am mad about today. First, I asked the Alexa thing to play “the Who” and instead it is playing WHO. Well, GEEZ, no one told me they had a new album in December! And it’s so Pete Townshend in its lyrics. I am one happy person. If this is their last album, it will be a great way to go. (Still missing the half of the band who are no longer with us, of course.)

Continue reading “Mad! Glad! Resourceful!”

Egg Production UP!

Hooray! I can’t wait until tomorrow to share this! The winter slump is over, and the ten or eleven remaining hens are starting to lay again. Mandi and Seth (the weekday gatherers) report that every day this week there are more.

Buckbeak is very proud of his remaining ladies.

Today’s 7 is pretty darned good! The owl deterrent measures seem to have helped, and we think it went to other hunting grounds.

We’re the big mamas. Ready to make you some eggs! Thanks for feeding us all winter!

Now maybe we can get a few more. We’re still going to do more coop work. But I’m so glad they’re out of the winter doldrums.

Sunday of Amazement

Wow, yesterday was just one amazing discovery after another around the ranch! The wind finally died down, which made it much easier to be outside, so I engaged in a lot of running around with dogs and exploring things, once the cattle moved off and the cattle torture ended.

This is the “springy” area of the woods. It’s on a slope, and the water drains down to the Hermits Stream.

Our neighbor Mike came over earlier than usual in the afternoon, so that we could go check out a few things in the woods. Of course, the dogs went, too, which gave them more opportunities to irritate the cattle. Sigh. But the good news is that we found an old food storage container that had slipped out of Lee’s hands and disappeared into the woods during the summer, when you can’t see a thing in there.

There is a lot of moss, algae, and other moisture-loving foliage here. I wonder what the area would look like if cattle weren’t stomping all over it.

But, WAY more important was that I confirmed my suspicions that the last remnant of the big drought that was going on when we first came to this area is going away. It’s quite clear that our springs are back!

I’d been seeing a wet area from our side of the fence, but we wanted to see it up close. Sure enough, water is seeping out of the ground and heading toward the stream. I’d heard that there were springs in there before, but other than getting a little muddier than the rest of the area, it hadn’t showed any signs of flowing.

Carlton investigates the babbling brook. The tree bridge is getting less and less sturdy as time goes by.

We also noted that the little brook/stream that flows into Walker’s Creek is flowing pretty briskly. Two things could cause that. Either the pond is still getting water from runoff and flowing through the arroyo, OR the other spring is working. Mike and I confirmed that the culvert is barely dripping, so that brisk flow of water must mean that the big, deep spring is flowing on its own again. Hooray! There’s water under the ground again!

Heron or egret footprints in the mud.

Now that the flooding has died down, we can see lots of tracks in the mud that the flooding deposited. One thing is for sure, those herons are BIG birds.

And the chickens?

I am very happy to report that the longer days, increased food, and/or less owl stress have combined to ramp up egg production. We were afraid that the one who was still laying had been the last owl victim, but, hooray, we had three eggs today, and since two of them were white, there are at least two laying now! Of course, we are down to a dozen chickens, so we won’t have what we did before, but it’s an improvement.

THREE eggs! And the beautiful cutting board the neighbors gave us for Christmas.

And, by the way, Mandi is ordering some netting to help foil the predators.

And more mooning

A picture-perfect end to the day.

We got back home and sat on the porch (it was cool, but not too cold) to enjoy blackberry wine and yet another lovely sunset, which I managed to frame in the porch, like a painting on a wall.

Here comes the moon!

Then we turned around to see the super moon rising in the east. Wow, that thing was big. My phone doesn’t do very good eclipse photos, but the red moon was very cool. I wish that happened more often. You know that sight must have been confusing to ancient people who didn’t know how the sun. moon, and earth coordiate!

Those Sneaky Snakes

Why, yes, I do have more to say about snakes. Thanks for all the great comments on the previous snake post! I guess all the dry weather had them all wandering around the ranch or something. (Aside: it has been raining this week, which we truly needed, but we could use more.)

snake-1332381_960_720
This public domain photo shows the cotton mouth and thick body of a water moccasin.

Another venomous encounter

Ralph at Wild Type Ranch reported a water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorous, also known as a cottonmouth) in his driveway last week. I’ve never seen one when it wasn’t swimming, so that was a big surprise to me. His dog tripped over it, so it wasn’t in attack mode. That’s good, because they are poisonous!

Another fact about these guys is that there is a non-poisonous water snake that just swims around, happily convincing people that it might just be a cottonmouth. That is usually what we see in our ponds. They get big, and are fun to watch while they undulate around looking for fish to eat (given the water moccasin’s Latin name, one can infer they mostly eat fish, too).

How do you tell them apart? Well, read this really good article, which I’ll summarize by saying that cottonmouths have a pit viper shaped blocky head, and thick bodies, while water snakes have thin bodies and a head that just flows into the body. Basically, leave them ALL alone. They’re really cool when viewed through binoculars.

Continue reading “Those Sneaky Snakes”