Friday, June 26, 2015

june update

a lot going on around here.  we had some wiring for the submersible well pump go bad a few days ago.  everything is functional again.  i helped staal dig a trench for the new conduit and wiring that needs to go in between the well pump and the controls in the garage.  the original wiring, done long before we found this place, was poorly done and although there is some expense and labor involved in correcting it it will be much safer and reliable.
the gardens are still a bit behind "normal" but still doing pretty well considering all the weather extremes we've had.  last month we were having 60 degree weather (very low temps for may) and now we're in the high 90s and topping out around 100 on some afternoons.  the winter squash are doing well and starting to blossom and fruit.  the summer squash are still small and struggling a bit.  the first planting of summer squash was pretty much decimated by all the bugs we've had this year so what's in the ground now is a second planting which went in pretty late.  hoping the young plants will push through the heat alright and start producing soon.  
kind of an exciting year for squash because most of what i planted was from seed saved from last year's harvest.  this year i get to do a bit more selecting to further adapt the varieties to our growing situation.

some of the winter squash

i've been having fun playing pollinator and doing some crosses.

holding male flower in mouth while preparing selected female flower for pollination

female flower pollinated, tagged, and re-taped to prevent unwanted crosses by the bees

staal has begun work on restoring an old building at the east edge of the property so that i can have a secure place to store feed and other supplies for the animals and gardens.  the roof was rotted and falling in so he's removed all the shingles, sheathing and rafters and has started building a new roof with a steeper pitch so it won't collect leaves and moisture like the last roof did.

new rafters on future feed barn

and the ducks.  the ducks are growing like mad.  although far too young to lay eggs they're still making a valuable contribution to the homestead.  their soiled bedding (and they produce copious amounts) will be composted for later use in the gardens and the spent duck water is providing some much needed moisture and fertility to the fruit trees and vegetables.

spent duck water on its way to the gardens

i put together a little run on the greenhouse lawn so the ducks can spend more time outside of the brooder developing some strong runner legs.  they get to run and forage a bit and it gives me a chance to clean the brooder.

zane keeping watch on the little ones while i clean the brooder

runners enjoying some foraging time in their plant flat playpen

the garlic is in, the potatoes need digging, and there are plenty of greens still coming in.  we're having a good time, keeping busy, and trying to avoid the worst of the afternoon heat---a great time to sit with a cold drink of water and watch the ducks.

hot summer morning

hot summer morning
a bumblebee
makes love
to the borage blossoms

Monday, June 22, 2015

feeding frenzy

it's pretty much one feeding frenzy after another.  they take short naps in between when their crops are full.  i don't think they ever stop pooping though.

here's staal giving them a treat this morning:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

happy father's day

caleb looks pretty young so i'm guessing this was late 1981 or early 1982

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

fire and first swim

had a little excitement yesterday.  a fire broke out around noon just a little ways down triangle rd.  fire crews responded very quickly and had it under control in a few hours.   i dug the garlic and watched helicopters fly over my head bringing water to drop on the flames.  

the ducklings had gotten themselves pretty filthy constantly flinging bits of feed all over each other and the inside of the brooder.  i let them have a short swim in the greenhouse this afternoon.  staal played lifeguard while i changed the bedding in the brooder.  

they were a little hesitant at first but after i helped the first one into the water they figured it out and had a great time.  they're not very oily yet so they got soaked to the skin pretty quickly.  i let them swim and get themselves cleaned up for a few minutes then toweled them off a bit and put them under the heat in the freshened brooder.

beats watching fire trucks and helicopters.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

for the ducks

i come in from the garden
to check on the new ducklings
you've gone out
and left stan getz playing
and i smile
because i know
you've left it on for the ducks

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

thirsty runners

everyone made it through the night.  i checked on them around 2am and they were nestled together and sleeping soundly.  they were up at about 5:30am, eating and drinking and peeping happily to each other.  
ducks drink a lot and by this morning they had their waterers pretty much drained.  there was much excitement when i refilled them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

the ducklings have arrived

the post office called this morning to tell us the ducklings were there waiting for us to come and take them home.  before we left i filled the waterers and feeders.  i also added a second heat bulb.  i let the single heat bulb run overnight last night and checked the minimum/maximum thermometer this morning.  it didn't stay as warm in the brooder overnight as it should have and it was only about 78 degrees in there in the morning.  it should be about 90 degrees for the first few days.
with everything set up we drove into town to pick up the little peepers.  i opened the box at the post office and everyone was alive and looking (and sounding) quite well. 
they were very eager to get out of the shipping box and into the brooder where they could stretch their wings and legs and get a drink.  i took them out of the shipping box one by one and dipped each of their bills into the waterer to make sure they knew where to get a drink.  they were all pretty thirsty.  they also started eating right away too.  always good to see them eating well and running around like crazy right at the start.  well, actually they're sort of staggering around like little drunken sailors right now.  they haven't quite got their legs figured out yet but they all seem very healthy and they're great fun to watch.

chocolate runner ducklings eager to get out of the shipping box and into the brooder

ducklings sexed as females got a white leg band, males got a black band

and here they are in action...

Monday, June 15, 2015


i spent most of yesterday setting up the brooder and getting feeders, waterers, and feed prepared for the ducklings' arrival, which could be as soon as tomorrow morning.  i had originally set up the brooder in the greenhouse but after monitoring the temperature for about 24 hrs i've decided to bring the brooder into the house where the temperature fluctuations are less extreme.

ducklings are a fair bit splashier than chicks so in the hopes of keeping the brooder from becoming a pond i wrapped some hardware cloth around a paint tray to make a platform for the waterers and to catch the spillage and splashage that will inevitably occur.

to keep the brooder warm i'm using a ceramic heat bulb.  this is the first time i've used this type of bulb.  in the past i've used light-emitting heat bulbs but i was always a little disturbed that because it was always light in the brooder the birds were awake for much of the night.  ceramic bulbs don't emit any light so the ducklings should develop a normal sleep/wake cycle.  and they won't keep us awake at night.

most starter feeds are medicated so i decided to mix feed for the ducklings myself rather than buying a commercial feed.  i had great success mixing feed for the chicks i've raised and our hens are doing well on the feed i mix for them.  i soak grains to make them more digestible and add in goodies like kelp and fish meal to make sure they're getting the nutrition they need.  there are always fresh greens available from the gardens too.  because ducks need more niacin than other fowl the ducklings will be getting brewers yeast, a natural source of niacin and other vitamins and minerals, in their rations to make sure they get what they need to be healthy. 

now all we need are the ducks.

afternoon on the merced river

 sometimes nick manages to drag us away from the house...


Tuesday, June 9, 2015



sunflowers are my favorite but calendulas are a close second.  i love their color variety and bright, cheerful faces.

the seed heads and seeds are pretty interesting too. there are still a few fresh blooms coming on but most of them have set seed and are getting ready to retire now that the summer heat has started.

i've always thought the seeds look like some kind of strange little sea creatures.

 i'll have plenty of seeds to plant for fall. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

praying westward

it seems to me
especially after a long day
tending the gardens and animals
under the burning sun
that the west
and the paling light
are as worthy
of receiving one's prayer
as any other direction

Sunday, June 7, 2015

the carpenter bee

the carpenter bee
is the largest bee i know
everything about it
is heavy
there is weight
in the deep black of its body
in the sound of its droning flight
and the way its glossy, metallic abdomen
seems to pull downward
against its powerful wings
as it busies itself amongst
the graceful flower stalks of the plantain
each bowing under its weight
nodding toward the ground
as it circles the cylindrical blossoms
raising a cloud of pollen
the flexible stalks gently springing upward
as it hefts itself off
to visit the next flower

close call

on the way out to the orchard garden zane took off to clear some turkeys out of the brush on the east side of the property and came back shaking his head and sneezing wildly---never good.

the tail ends at the middle of my third finger---happy it didn't break off while i was pulling it out.

there was only an 1/8" showing (just barely enough to get a grip on it), the rest was up his snout.  i'm happy he's such a cooperative pup.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


we've had a raccoon hanging about the last few nights.  zane has been on night duty (in the house patrolling the windows and doors) and has gotten me up a few times to go and check things out.  one night i got up and turned on the light out to the kitchen garden and got a good look at the critter.  it stood up on its hind legs and gave me an annoyed look over its shoulder before plodding off to whatever marauding it had planned for the night.  it's been in the compost and the trash can and pulled some cat food cans out of the recycling bin but hasn't been anything more than a mild nuisance.  until lastnight.
i was reading in bed around 9:45pm and i heard a couple of thumps and some screaming coming from the chicken tractor (chickens do not squawk when being attacked in the dark, they wail.  it's a sound i heard once in the middle of the night in catheys valley---i went out and found a raccoon hauling a dead chicken up a post and into an overhanging oak tree).   i stumbled into pants on my way out the door as staal was handing me a flashlight and following me out with a shillelagh in hand (i made zane stay inside).  it was quiet by the time we got out and i took that as a bad sign. 
i shone the light around the chicken tractor and i did a head count---two on the roost and one on the ground.  thankfully, standing and mostly unharmed.  the larger of the two australorps had been pulled off the roost, spooked into a corner as she tried to flee, and then had hunks of feathers pulled out through the wire as the raccoon tried to get hold of her.  she's a big, strong bird with lots of feathers and fluff.  being so well-feathered is probably what saved her.
i looked around with the flashlight a little more and then shone it up the slope, northward and somewhat towards the creek bed.  i immediately caught on two glowing dots in the low crotch of an oak tree.  it stared for a few seconds and then took off.  staal and i walked up the slope a ways and made sure it had gone.
i figured it would be back later so i rounded up the fiberglass panels for the sides of the chicken tractor and staal brought out a lantern and helped hold the panels as i screwed them into place.
i went out early this morning and took the panels off so the birds wouldn't get too hot as the sun came up.  i gave them breakfast and they all seemed well.

fully-armored tractor

zane was upset about not being allowed out to join us lastnight (i don't want him tangling with raccoons).  he did some thorough sniffing about this morning when i went out to remove the panels, checking around the tractor and out in the woods near the oak tree where we saw the glowing eyes.

hefty hunk of feathers

she lost a lot of feathers but you can't tell by looking at her.

lucky chicky

raccoon has forfeit his safety.