Monday, May 05, 2008


Lots of recent sightings of interesting wildlife lately.

Stephen found this gray tree frog on a gate by a downed tree that he thinks had been the frogs home:

He also found two rat snakes in the hen house (here's one):

To give you a perspective on its size, here it is next to an adult's hockey stick:

We'll add the snakes to our reasons for declining egg production lately. The extreme free-rangedness of the chickens is yet another. Here's a nest of about 10 eggs that Stephen discovered by the road! We eat all the eggs from newly discovered spots ourselves and only sell eggs that we gather fresh from known laying spots.

I also found a snake in the dog house. When Stephen went to move it, it slithered away. In his search for it, he uncovered these gulf coast toads who had been hanging out under a piece of plywood:

Last night I went to water some hanging plants and to my great surprise, a baby bird flew out of the plant. I had seen some activity in this plant some weeks ago, but had not seen any birds around it for quite a while (not even when watering). I counted 4 Carolina Wren babies in all. They are all fledglings who kept fluttering around on the front porch and wall nervously while their mama watched vigilantly.

Here's one on the front window screen (you can see the plant in the upper left corner):

This one is SO cute! I just love the "eyebrows". It was on the step of the front door:

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Farm update

Well it has been a while since I have written about the farm, and lots has been going on.

Stephen finished fencing in the back yard and the 1/4 acre garden. All the posts came from trees he cut down, stripped, hauled and sized himself. This is the garden:

I have been working sporadically (thanks to the usual demands of homeschooling, home making, and TODDLERS) on putting in and caring for the garden. We have veggies in for ourselves and I started putting in a cut flower area in the hopes we can make it to some farmer's markets this summer. I am just going to keep planting until I run out of space, again, with the hopes of trying out selling veggie surplus at farmers' markets. I hope I actually get to the point that I run out of space, but my pace of planting is painfully slow.

Here are some sprouts from a few weeks ago... first one of beans, then a baby tomato:

Our chicken situation, as always, is in flux. We have had a bit of chicken loss lately, mostly due to coyotes, but in one very sad case, due to a chicken getting into the car when the door was open and not being noticed. I found her a few hours later when I went to get something out; it had gotten too hot for her, and she did not survive. This was especially sad as she was one our favorites, and had a name (you may remember that we rarely name animals because we know how easy it is for them to leave us).

The free range chickens are all laying hens, except for our dear rooster Louie, who has been with us since 6 weeks after we moved here. Our dogs haven't even lived here that long! Here is proud, beautiful Louie:

A number of hens tried to hatch out clutches this spring. One successfully hatched two out of the 10 or so she sat on, but we have not seen the chicks since they were 2 or 3 days old. We suspect coyotes again. We let this girl sit for more than three weeks and not one of them hatched. When Stephen finally kicked her out of the box he disposed of some very rotten (chick-less) eggs.

We have had a few successful hatch outs here in past years. This girl's birth Mama was a Black Australorp, and her Papa is Louie. If I remember correctly, her adoptive Mama was a Buff Orpington (maybe even the one above; this breed tends to be broody in spring). I think the mix turned out really cool in her feathering:

We got another round of meat chicks 4 weeks ago. Here they are on day 1, oh so cute:

And here they are a few days ago, almost 4 weeks old and getting pretty ugly as their feathers finish coming in:

You are seeing them in the porch of their brooder house. They will soon move to pasture in a portable hoop house, allowing them fresh air and fresh forage daily, while still protecting them from predators.

A few weeks ago the cows alerted us to a coyote sitting on the edge of some trees watching the chickens longingly. This was around 9:00am... pretty late in the day for a coyote.

The picture is a little odd, I know... the coyote can be seen in the upper left corner, and you can just make out a line of cows facing him (the playscape is what is in the way... it was impossible to get a clearer shot). Stephen estimates the coyote was about 150 yards away from the house.

We have had two more calves born in the past month. That brings the total for 2008 up to three. The most recent:

Our horse Joe discovered that Stephen had changed to chicken feed storage location. He broke the door in, helped himself to the feed, broke the feeders, and ate most of a bale of hay that was in the chicken house. Here's the door-less chicken house:

And, being spring in Texas, we've been enjoying the wildflowers. This year the field between our house and barn is filled with evening primroses:

Here is a close up of one my favorites, the wine cup:

With all this going on, you can see why I haven't done much posting lately!