Sunday, April 30, 2006

They're back!

The hummingbirds and indigo buntings have returned to my terrace garden. The buntings perch on the end of a gutter to survey the area. Next stop is this bit of decorative ironwork. When they're sure it's safe, they proceed to the bird feeder for a meal. The hummingbirds aren't dining at our place yet because I haven't located all the parts to their feeder.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Bad weed!

Very bad weed! Hundreds of these young burdock plants have appeared in the pasture, the gardens, in full sun and shade. Sure, they look innocent now. And yes, I know the mature roots are edible and even useful in therapeutic preparations. (More about that another day...)

It's the burrs that cause the problems. They're often called cockleburrs, though that's not correct. The cockleburr comes from a different plant, though the burrs are about the same size and cause as much trouble. Last fall I spent hours untangling the burdock variety of burr trouble from the dogs' coats. The goats' beards turned into tangled, matted messes in one afternoon of grazing, so I took the easy way out and cut their beards off. The sheep? Well...that was just sad...they'd have been embarrassed if they'd been allowed mirrors.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The babysitter

The goslings took their first swim this afternoon while I cleaned the brooder. Ralphie, our English Shepherd, stayed close and guarded them from the gang of bully roosters. He wouldn't let the other dogs come near either.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Peeps!

This morning I got the call as I was heading to the barn to milk the cow. My peeps had arrived at the local post office on the morning truck.

The 22 turkey poults and 8 goslings made the trip from the hatchery well and are settling in nicely. The turkeys are Kardosh Bronzes, a strain of standard bronze turkeys. Kardosh Bronzes are large turkeys, not as large as the broad-breasted types grown commercially for supermarket sales, but a lot sturdier. These will able to reproduce naturally. (Commercial broad-breasted types must be artificially inseminated because selective breeding for the 'optimum' breast has created birds that aren't capable of natural insemination.) The Kardosh Bronzes have longer legs and a sturdy, proportionate bone structure. The color is similar to that of wild turkeys, beautiful, with a metallic glimmer to the feathers when the light strikes them at the proper angle. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Frank Reese Jr., a long-time breeder of Kardosh Bronzes and friend of Norm Kardosh, who developed the strain. One of Frank's huge young toms followed us through the poultry yards, puffing and displaying. The late morning light reflecting off his feathers reminded me of the sheen of a new penny.

The goslings are American Buffs, a breed listed as critically rare by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Buffs are generally calm and docile, I'm told. We'll see. My previous experiences with geese could not be described in those terms. I'm willing to play nice if they will.
The Kardosh Bronze turkey poults can't stand still for more than a second. They're healthy, alert, and busily exploring every inch of the old hog waterer we recycled into a brooder pen a few years ago.
These American Buff goslings will spend their first week in the hose-out brooder. My genius husband built this brooder from the shell of our old dishwasher. It's the easiest to clean and sanitize - a big plus. Waterfowl babies are MESSY! It's also the most heat efficient of our brooders. Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 07, 2006

Lavender fields?

Fields covered with large swaths of lavender-tinted flowers are a common sight in rural Missouri this time of year. Pretty weeds, that's all they are. Just henbit. You probably have a few here and there in your yard. They're not particularly noticible in small numbers.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) is a winter annual that grows from 4 to 12 inches tall. It's one of those weeds that serves a useful purpose in my opinion. It covers the ground in the winter and holds the soil in place, but it's not that difficult to eradicate in the spring when it's time for something else to grow there. It spreads only by seeds, likes moist areas, and seems to thrive in sun or shade. It's one of the earliest plants to green up in the spring, and thus drew the attention of our Jersey cow, who appreciates a tasty snack on the way back to the barn in the evening.
A closer look.
A different view, showing the leaves. Henbit blooms in late winter and early spring. It started in late January here at the farm and didn't seem too bothered by freezing weather.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wild strawberries

Several patches of wild strawberries are blooming in the back pasture. The majority grow among a couple of burnt-out blackberry patches the wildfires cleared this winter. They're also near the cedars, at the edge of a plum thicket, and scattered here and there among the grass. Judging from the number of buds on most plants, this will be a bumper crop year. Just the thought of that intense flavor makes my mouth water. If I'm really lucky and really fast, I might even beat the local wildlife to a few berries when they ripen. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Apparently nobody told this young apple tree it didn't have to bloom its first spring on site. The variety is William's Pride. We planted it last November. Precocious, isn't it?  Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Weekend projects

The answer to the surprise quiz picture: milking stanchion. (It was a surprise to me that I couldn’t upload the text.) My genius husband combined ideas from several designs and built this one, which suits me perfectly. Lottie Le Cow is less impressed but adjusting to the new stanchion, new stall, and new routine. We’d intended to leave the side open for easy feeding and cleanout. However, Wilbur Le Sheep hopped inside and christened it in a manner which feed boxes should not be christened. So my husband added the horizontal boards to prevent a repeat performance. The feed pans will still slide under the bottom slat, and now there’s a bonus feature – an escape ladder!