New Greenhouse, Ducks, and Garden Stuff

It has been so busy here.  One day, we think, we will be done with all the major builds/improvements, and then we will be able to relax.

Or, you know, at least be able to keep up with the work that we want to do.

The greenhouse (Early Bloomer, by Solexx) is almost finished.  It’s up, and usable – there is just a few remaining details, like the door handle, the solar-powered automatic window opener, and some trim.

There is also quite a bit of landscaping to be done around it.  I’ve already planted some peas and sunflowers around the back.

Inside, I built raised beds, and spent several hours shoveling compost out of the chicken coop’s deep litter, and carting it by the wagon load into the greenhouse…only to shovel it back out into the beds.  Lots of work, but somehow enjoyable, all the same.  I’m finding that there is true pleasure in hard, physical work.  I used to be a total night owl, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, then sleeping in.  Now I’m so excited to work outside, that I wake up early, work all day in the garden, then collapse in bed around 10pm.

As you can see, the inside floor still needs to be installed.  We’ve bought some lovely brick.

At the far end, will be a potting bench, once I have time to build it.  To the left of the door, is shelving for starting trays of seedlings.

I’ve planted a bunch of tomatoes, melons, and peppers in the beds.

In the front vegetable garden, I came up with a good idea for trellising my beans.  I put in two t-posts, then built a frame of wood and wire that fits between them.  It is zip-tied securely into place.

At the end of summer, I can cut the zip-ties, and store the frame out of the weather.  Next year, I can put two more t-posts in a different bed, and put the frame up there.  Some years, I’ll have a frame between the posts, other years, I’ll use the posts as tomato tie-ups.

The Indian Runner ducklings are getting so big.  Their chests are completely feathered in, and feathers are coming in on their backs, faces, and wings.  They are still very, very cute.

They’ve changed so much from just a few days earlier…although they still like to snuggle with each other.

Josie and her chicks are doing great.  I need to get some more pics; this video is from a week ago.  They have lots more feathers on their wings now, and their tails are coming in.

What’s this I see?  What’s that in your hand?

You have a new camera????

Well, then!  Time for some beauty shots of what’s blooming in the garden!

Peonies.

And roses.

And after years of never seeing butterflies, I’m finally seeing visitors in my garden.  This one seems to come here a lot.  It’s very shy, though, and even though I hunted it as stealthily as I could, this was the best shot I could get.

Is that a Painted Lady butterfly?

And Peabody and Nefertiti say goodnight.

For those of you who are interested in keeping quail naturally, a friend and I are running a new facebook group: Natural Quail Keeping.  Feel free to join and start posting pics or asking questions!

 

Introducing Chicks to a Broody Hen

Sometimes this works with a broody hen, sometimes not.  Sometimes it works, but you have to be a lot more stealthy about it.  I’m lucky, because my broody Barnvelder hen, Josie, will just take chicks straight-up, with no fuss.

I just went to the feed store, and bought three chicks.

Frederika (Freddie)

Edith (Edie)

Both of these are Ameraucanas, and will hopefully lay green or blue eggs.  Edie is already my favorite.  I think she looks like a fat little owl.

And then there’s Charlotte (Lottie) who was supposed to be a Speckled Sussex, only there was some kind of problem at the hatchery, and we had to chose a different breed instead.  We chose a Buckeye.  They are supposedly great mousers!

Here is a video of Josie meeting her new babies.

Josie is such a great girl.  I used to get annoyed with her constant broodiness, but now I’ve learned to appeciate her mothering skills.  It’s so brilliant, being able to bring new chickens into your flock through this method.  There’s no fuss with pasty butt, heat lamps, or messy brooder boxes in your house.  And best of all, by the time they are grown up, they are peacefully intregated into your flock!  And if your hen is as friendly as Josie, she teaches her chicks not to fear humans.  It won’t be long before she’ll be showing them how to jump up on my lap!

I transfered Loki and his girl out of the roof garden coop, and into the smaller one, so I could clean the big coop out and use it for Josie and her babies.  While they are young, I like to give them a little extra  privacy away from the Big Hens Who Are Terrified of Babies.

Josie will be a couple of days coming out of her broody state.  If she were hatching eggs, she’d have to wait for all of them to finish hatching, so even though she has her babies, her body tells her she still needs to sit still on her nest and wait.  Meanwhile, she talks continually to her babies, teaches them to eat food (and not to eat poop).

Yesterday I introduced them, today I took a second video of them.

If you’re interested in why hens go broody, I HIGHLY recommend this article by the Holistic Hen. What she says makes so much sense.  It’s completely true that Josie used to be the absolute bottom of the pecking order…and after her first batch of babies, went straight to the top.  The only hens that give her any sass at all are her two daughters.  Of course it doesn’t help that she’s such a natural mother that when she finds something yummy to eat, she can’t resist giving the “Come babies, come babies, I found food for you!” call.  Her two-year old daughters come running, and when Josie sees them, she realizes her mistake and snaps up the goody herself, leaving her daughters standing around looking confused.

And let’s end this blog with two ducklings in a basket.  Just because I can.

 

Ducks, Bees, and Growing Things

The garden is growing really well.  This is probably my favorite time of year among the ornamentals.  Notice the new greenhouse – still a work in progress, but slowly getting built.  Everything in it should grow extremely well, after I made a blood sacrifice Monday while working on it.  Yes, my knife slipped, and I made a nasty cut on my knuckle.  I could probably have gotten a stitch or two, but since I don’t care about scarring, I didn’t bother going in.  It’s healing nicely, but it’s awkward working outside without the use of my left forefinger!  Not to mention typing.

I’m hoping we get the greenhouse finished soon, because I have three cold frames and some indoor growlights bursting at the seams with little tomatoes, squashes, and melons!  The melons and a few of the tomatoes will go into the greenhouse and stay there; the rest just need a bigger place to grow while they wait for warmer weather.

My potatoes-in-trash-cans are growing nicely.

And I have itty bitty apples on the columnar trees I planted.  First apples!  Squee!

The grapes have TONS of fruit on them.  It’s going to be a bumper year.  I just put the vines in last year, so this is the first year for fruit.

The strawberries are also going to town, setting fruit.  Especially the alpines.

Something new I just started is growing duckweed.  All you need is water and sun, and it reproduces like mad.  It’s terrifically good for ducks – and other poultry.  I want to add it regularly to the duck pond once it gets going, and also skim some off for the quail.

The bees are so cool.  I love sitting right next to the hive and watching them going about their business.  They fly around me and investigate me, but are not aggressive at all.  I try to spend a few minutes with them every day.  They say bees can recognize humans, and I’m trying to make them realize that I mean them no harm.

And the ducklings are beside themselves with excitement!

They have officially moved outside into their Big Duck pen!  I still have their Ecoglow Brooder out with them for a heat source, but they didn’t even get under it once all day.

They are such sweet little girls.

And tomorrow we are picking up Josie’s new babies at the feed store.  She’s been very patiently waiting for them, growling whenever I disturb her in the nestbox.

I’ll try to get a video of the moment of first introduction.  It’s such a magic moment.

 

Ducklings, Quail, and a Greenhouse, Oh My!

First off, the Indian Runner ducklings, Maisie and Millie, are now a week old.  Ducks grow so freaking fast!

We’ve been letting them out to run and play in the living room, and today, because the weather was so lovely and warm, they got to go outside and have a bath.

While I was outside with the camera, I also took a few pictures of the quail.

A gratuitous shot of Peabody because he is a camera hog:

And then I visitied Loki and Isis.  When I open the door to the coop, Isis always comes running right up, expecting treats.

If I don’t immediately comply with a handful of seed or greens, she sometimes attempts to walk (always very calmly) out of the coop to go get her own greens.

It’s at this point that I give in to her wishes…

I really, really like these Golden Italians.  They are so docile and sweet-tempered.  Though Loki is always slightly suspicious of my motives.  He’s a good male, and protective of his girl.

Speaking of quail, I said I’d show you pics of my new coop.  It’s smaller than the others – I originally meant it to hook onto the from-scratch greenhouse I was going to build.  I wanted to make sure they had an outside area they could escape to if the interior of the greenhouse got too hot.

The entire top lifts, for easy access to the quail.  I wouldn’t have a top *quite* like this, if I didn’t trust my quail to be so tame they wouldn’t fly out.  As it is, one of the girls does *pretend* she’s going to fly out if I’m not quick enough with the treats.  But once I drop seed or greens in the pen, they all let me pet them, clean around them, and do whatever else needs to be done without fear.

Notice the chickens looking on.  They have severe quail-food envy.  The highlight of their day is when I scatter a few quail crumbles on the ground for them!

We aren’t doing a from-scratch greenhouse any more, for a variety of reasons.  The biggest one being that we found a kit that is everything we want, for a reasonable price.  It’s the Early Bloomer, by Solexx.  We have the frame up, but we were accidentally sent the wrong size of anchoring/tie down pieces, so we can’t put the skin on it until we get those in the mail.

The company, Solexx is AMAZING to deal with.  They are willing to answer all our questions over the phone, and after we bought one, the guy who gives help on building it gave us his personal cell phone number in case we had trouble and needed help after hours or on the weekend!  Wow.  That’s customer service you don’t often see.

If you’re looking for a greenhouse, I highly recommend checking them out.

And what’s new in the garden?  My beans are coming up like wildfire!

I’m growing so many different kinds of snap beans this year.  I want to can millions of them!  Seriously, those beans I canned last year are so yummy.  I’m also growing a couple of varieties for dry beans.  Black Turtle and Saxons, neither of which I’ve done before, and Scarlet Runner Beans, which I do every year.  The hummingbirds LOVE the flowers, they are gorgeous on the trellis, and the dry beans are wonderful.  Similar to a pinto, I think, only creamier.  Since I tried them as dry beans, I don’t bother picking any of them as young snap beans.

And here’s a picture of one of my favorite flowers, Forget-Me-Not.

Oh, and I almost forgot – we’re getting three new chicks this year!  My broody hen, Josie, went broody at just the right time this year, so I reserved two Ameraucanas, and one Speckled Sussex.  Every time I get an Ameraucana, it ends up being a rooster.  Every. Freaking. Time.  So this time, I’m getting two.  My luck couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Don’t answer that.

Bees and Ducklings are Here!!!

Friday was an eventful day.  Not only did we pick up our three sexed Fawn and White Indian Runner ducklings, but we got the call that our package of honeybees was also ready!

First there was some bad news though – one of the first things I always do in the morning is check email and facebook.  One of the very first things to pop up on facebook was a story about a horrible accident on the nearby freeway involving a semi tipping over while delivering Belleville Bees.  I ordered my bees through Belleville, and I was so sure that this accident was involving the delivery of the package bees!  Would I be getting bees at all this year?  It was a moment of great disappointment, as I’d been looking forward to having bees again for nearly a year.

It was quickly obvious, though, that these were hives being delivered to pollinate a field.  What a horrible, horrible accident.  I heard there were 3.7 million honeybees on that semi, and while beekeepers were able to rescue some, many more were either crushed in the accident, or killed on purpose by the firefighters spraying foam.

Our package was fine, though, and was SO MUCH MORE HEALTHY than the package we bought last year, which arrived with a dead queen and more than an inch of dead bees on the bottom of the box.  This one had only a few dead bees.

Last time, we got Italians.  This time, we were swayed into getting New World Carniolans by a local beekeeper, who thinks they are the best for my area.

Hiving a new package of bees is an exhilarating experience!  Even though you are literally touching bees, having them crawl on you, and buzzing all around you, it never feels frightening.  It’s just one of the most awesome, incredible feelings!  Neither one of us were stung, and even though we were just wearing jackets with veils and rubber dish-washing gloves rather than a full suit, we never felt like we were in danger of being stung.  It’s just so, so cool.

Our hive is a Warre hive, and one of the nice things about this particular one (made by Sweet Valley Hives) is the queen release ring system they have.  Instead of hanging the queen cage down inside the hive, you just slot it into the side of the hive. In this picture, you can see the bees crawling around this slot, checking things out.  The white tab you see is part of the queen cage – it’s the hanging strip.

When it’s time to see if the worker bees have accepted her and freed her from the cage, it’s as simple as pulling the cage out of the side and looking!  Today, I did just this – not wearing any protection at all, not even gloves – and the queen has been freed!

The bees have already also made a large section of comb, and today I saw about five bees coming into the hive with pollen.  Unlike last year, I think this lot of bees are off to a great start.

I made a quick little video right after we hived the package of bees.  The audio isn’t very good, but you can see all the bees flying around us.

After we picked up the bees, we went to Valley Farm Center for the ducklings.  They are one of the few places that offer special orders of breeds, and also sexed ducklings.

Sadly, the ducklings must have been exposed to something nasty, because just a couple hours after we brought them home, one of them started having trouble walking and was staggering around.  Within another hour, she died in my hand as I was holding her.  Mom did some googling, and found out that the symptoms and rapid onset and death matched exactly Duck Viral Hepatitis, which is highly contageous among waterfowl, and has a 90% mortality rate.  I called Valley Farm Center, and learned some of the other ducklings that came in with ours were sick/dying.  Terrifed we were going to lose all three, I sterilized the brooder box, and everything in it.  I don’t know if that did the trick, but it’s now past the 48 hour incubation time for DVH, and the other two ducklings are in perfect health.  I think they are going to be ok.  Whew.

We named them Millie and Maisie.  Maisie (surprise, surprise!) turned out to be a crested Indian Runner.  I’m happy about that, because I love crested ducks!  You can just see her little topknot in this pic:

They are both so cute.  I really think there is nothing on earth more adorable than a duckling!

Look! Here is Millie asleep in my hand!

In garden news, we finally demolished the falling-down, rotting shed in the chicken yard.  I should have gotten pictures of its decrepid state, but I forgot.  Here’s a picture of the new space I have to work with.  I’m still planning what to do, but I think it will involve another grape trellis.

There beyond the make-shift fence, is the bee yard.

I planted some pasture mix beyond the hive, which is starting to green out now.  When it’s more mature, I’ll let the chickens in for a  short time every few days to get some green forage in them.  The trash cans are my container potatoes, the bed at the bottom is seeded with millet for the quail, and there’s comfry, kale, and blackberries as well.

All of the fruiting trees and vines are doing REALLY well.  The hardy kiwis are covered in buds, which is so exciting.

The fuzzy kiwi is growing well, but because we only planted it last year, I don’t think we’re going to get fruit.  The fuzzy green-and-red leaves are beautiful, though.  It still kind of blows my mind that growing kiwi is even possible here in the Pacific NW.  It just seems like such a tropical fruit.

Also fun is the “Tiny Tim” tomatoes I have growing in the kitchen window.  This is a mini variety that does well in lower light, and only gets about a foot high.  We have little green tomatoes already!

Oh, and do you remember when I said we weren’t getting a greenhouse this year?  Yeah, I need to stop saying things like that.  A while back, I said I’d built my last quail coop…since then, I’ve built another.  A little one just for the extra girls.  I need to get pictures up for you.

And now, after I said no greenhouse…we’re building one.  From a kit, though, not from scratch.  Mom found this company called Solexx, and their product sounds perfect for us.  The kit is arriving tomorrow, so this weekend, we’ll be putting it together.  I have all kinds of little melons and tomatoes started just to put in it!

Garden Update

Everything is growing and green!

Every year, I’m chasing my tail trying to accomplish a long list of projects, remodels, and maintenance in the garden.  And even though I never get anywhere near the end of that last, it always feels so good to be out there working.  Even the total grunt-work and the occasional icky bits are so much more enjoyable than not being outside.  And slowly, we are getting things done.

This year, building the greenhouse has been pushed back until next year, in favor of building the paver patio addition and pathway.  It’s a good tradeoff.  We’ve also put up a clothesline in the back yard.  I love line-dryed clothes.  They smell so incredibly good, plus they have that fresh stiffness that is so preferable to soft.  Can I say that I just hate fabric softener?  Ick.  (I also hate thick plush towels that are too plush to properly soak up water, and too thick to wrap around your head.  There’s a reason I always buy the absolute cheapest towels I can find, and it’s not because of cost!)  Anyway, that was a digression…we’re here to talk garden!

I’ve also chosen and planted a bunch more fruit trees and shrubs.

Three more blueberries: Jersey and Bluecrop

Two red currants: Cherry Red

Two peaches: Indian Free and Charlotte

One pear: Seckel

One apple: Arkansas Black

Two cherries: Tartarian Black and Royal Anne

Two plums: Coe’s Golden Drop and Mirabelle

Purple raspberries: Brandywine

Next year, I hope to put in four more apples, and then we’ll be done…except for possibly another couple of grapes.  I’m thinking the chickens need a Concord grape in their run.

All of the new trees are leafing out, which is always good to see.  Following the directions in Growing a Little Fruit Tree, we’ve chopped them off to knee height.

The columnar apples I put in last year are blooming for the first time.  They are so pretty and SO sweetly scented!

Plus, I put in a bunch more strawberries, of a variety called “Mara des Bois”, which is a cross between a regular strawberry and an alpine/wild one.  It’s supposed to be similar in flavor to the tiny alpines, but in a standard size.  If that’s true, it’ll be amazing!

The duck coop is almost done.  The foundation is in, the top part mostly just needs hardware and doors attached, and then it needs a roof.   Weather permitting, we just *might* get it done before next week…which is good because that’s when the ducks are arriving!

Ducklings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And because I don’t have any duck pictures, I’ll end with a few pretty blooming flowers.

The smell of pansies is the smell of Spring, to me.

This is one of the new lavenders that’s blooming. It’s called “Raspberry Ruffles”. Perfect name. I hope it survives in my garden. Fancy lavender is sometimes iffy for me.

Geeky Fun

Last Saturday, a friend and I went to Emerald City Comic Con.  Since we both had missing costuming mojos, we hit the thrift store and I went as a MiB agent, and Betsy went as as undercover alien tourist.

We also visited the EMP museum and the Star Wars Costume Exhibition.

More words (and pictures!) are on my other blog: http://www.dragonflydesignsbyalisa.com/apps/blog/show/43217191-emerald-city-comiccon-star-wars-costumes

Garden Projects, plus a Poisoned Corgi

Wow.  It feels like forever since I’ve posted, but we’ve been super busy here.  No, the duck coop still isn’t finished…but I did get the upper part (and inner nest box area) put together and ready for doors, roof, and foundation.  The green ripple roof section is a piece we bought as a trial to see if we wanted to use it for the roof.  We will.  I think a green roof will be quite pretty…and provide shade protection of the ducks.

Still a considerable bit to do, yet, but at least there’s progress!

Our new paved pathway now has solar lights, and it’s so pretty at night.  Love the patterns they make on the stone.

I want to get some of the solar fairy lights to string over the trellis arch.

The circle garden quail coop has a paved “patio” as well, and I spray-painted a couple of cheap plastic pots blue and planted lavender in them.  Blue is becoming our garden accent color.

Peabody the quail enjoys having a patio.  He spends a lot of time hanging out on his log (like he is here) and watching the goings-on in the yard.  If I walk over, he starts growling and chuffing at me.  It’s pretty cute, even though he’s trying to be Intimidating and Fierce.

I took a video of the Cinna and Martha in their new coop.  This is the rotating coop, that will be alternating over raised beds, so I can grow veggies in one while the quail are fertilizing and tilling the other.  The standard quail seem to be the best at this job.  The others I have (Italians and Blondes) don’t seem to be much into digging holes and turning the soil – except for the occasional dust bath hole.  The standard girls dig the most amazing deep holes.  The one in this video is actually one of the smaller ones I’ve seen.

The front yard vegetable garden FINALLY has a gate.

It will look gorgeous later this year, when I have squash/beans growing up the trellis.  It’s nice to have it fenced off from the rest of the yard, because Dexter is not the most helpful gardener.  Our other big project was fencing in the entire rest of the front yard, so Dexter can have a play yard.

We used t-posts and livestock wire, and it’s amazing how invisible it is, when there’s plants up against it.  One project for a later time, will be filling in plants into the bare spots.  Edibles, I think, but shrubs and larger plants that can take the roughhousing of a corgi.  I might put espaliered trees against the fence on the left.  It looks out onto a lovely view of the neighbors many, many vehicles, and we’d love to hide that behind something green.

Mom spray-painted the white tops of the t-posts black to match the fence, although we left the white sides that faced the driveway.  The wire is a little too invisible, and we don’t want anyone accidentally driving into it.

I have a bunch of kale, cabbage, peas, and beets directly planted into the garden now.  Everything is so gorgeous.  I’ve been hungering for the sight of green growing things all winter!

I’ve also found a cool idea on Pinterest that I’ve started this year…using plastic storage tubs as portable coldframes.  It’s been working perfectly.

Finally, we come to Dexter.  We took him in for his neutering appointment, and the bloodwork they do beforehand showed elevated liver enzymes.  The vet said we’d have to hold off on the surgery, until we checked to see if anything was going on with his liver, so instead of becoming less nuts, Dexter had another test, then was sent home to wait for results.

While we were waiting to hear, we did a little research/remembering on our own, and discovered the culprit: poisoning by lawn chemicals.  There is an abandoned field near our house, where we let Dexter run and play.  Someone keeps it mowed, and apparently they also apply copper sulfate to the grass.  One time when he came back, he smelled really strongly of copper, but we didn’t put two and two together until after his blood test.  The symptoms of copper sulfate poisoning/copper overdose match his blood test results and other symptoms perfectly.

When the vet called with the results of the other test (which were fine) we ran our theory past him, and he agreed that was almost certainly the culprit.  So we have to wait three weeks for the copper to leave his liver, and then we can go ahead with his neutering.

This makes me so angry.  Why are we still pouring poisonous chemicals onto our lawns and into our gardens?  And this was an abandoned field, for pete’s sake!  Right behind it is a wetlands area – of course all that copper sulfate is going straight into the water, and who knows what else it is poisoning?  A friend told me a story of a friend of hers whose dog died because it ate a few blades of grass outside his own apartment.  This is completely insane.

In happier Dexter news, we gave him his first bath.  He was very good, but his favorite part was afterward, when he got to run through the house like a soaked tasmanian devil – and play with the hair dryer.  He loves the hair dryer.  Every time I wash my hair, he stands behind me when I dry it, just hoping I’ll turn the blower on him a few times!

Our gorgeous sunny weather has turned back into rain, so I didn’t work on the duck coop today.  Instead, I worked on a few crafty projects for the garden (I’ll share those in my next post) and hoed up one section of the chicken run/garden to plant a chicken-friendly pasture mix.  It was really pleasant to be out there, hoeing in the drizzle!  Spring rain has such a vibrancy to it; I love the feel of being out in it.  It’s supposed to rain tomorrow too – and my plan is to work on the rain barrels.  I want to install three this year: one for the garden roof quail coop, and two for the chicken coop.  I’m looking forward to it.  It’s something I haven’t done before, and that’s always fun!

What We Did When We Should be Building a Duck Coop

In the last post, I talked about how I finally convinced mom to let me convert a large section of the back yard lawn into paver stones and garden beds.

Reader, except for a few minor things like cleanup and adding a proper border of stone around the new mini lawns, it’s done.

Here’s the week in pictures:

And finally – just today – Mom put in the last stone on the pathway!

I’m really chuffed with how great it looks!  No more slip n’ slide through the mud!

We designed the pathway to turn off into a little mini patio for the Display Quail Coop.  I think I’ll put a few pots of herbs here.

We still need to get more stones to border the lawn…

…and also, that wood border is getting rotten, and we’ll be ripping it out and either just sloping the dirt down into the new bed, or putting in a border of stone to keep the two-level look.

There’s another tiny little circle lawn in the shady/wildflower area. We’re checking into options for replacing the grass with something green that doesn’t require cutting.

I can’t wait to start planting in the new garden beds, but that will have to wait for a few months.  Right now, there’s just a thin layer of dirt over newspaper and cardboard to kill the grass underneath.  Eventually, it will be a combination of herbs, easy perpetual vegetables and fruits, along with a few areas for annual veggies.

In quail news, Loki and his chosen girl have made a beautiful nest, and are laying eggs.

They are so cute.  Loki accompanies her to the nest, and sits beside her, grooming her feathers while she lays an egg.  Then she leaves, and he sits on the eggs for a bit, touching them with his beak, talking to them, and guarding them.  They are showing so much joint interest in their eggs that I’m hoping I have another female that will choose to go broody and raise a clutch for me.  But we’ll have to see. Coturnix quail are infamous for not raising their own young, but I’ve been lucky before.  Fingers crossed!

On Quail Monogamy & Remodeling a Garden

Loki the quail is being a bad boy.  Or a good one, depending on whether you are the female he loves…or the female he hates and was chasing all over the pen, causing her fly into walls out of sheer panic.

I’m starting to think coturnix quail are monogamists.  They’re fine kept in a group of a male and several females in the fall/winter, but once those spring hormones kick in…oh boy.  So right now I’ve got Peabody and wife together, and Loki and wife together.  I’ve had to put the other Italian girl in her own little wired off area, because she was going to hurt herself, trying to escape.  Cinna is still with two girls, but even he clearly has a girl he’s bonded with, and one he ignores.  I think once I either give away one of the pairs (or a male dies) I’m going to keep two breeding pairs, and one cage of only females for egg production.  They are definitely teaching me what they like, these quails!

And in spite of the fact that we are counting down to April 17th, and the arrival of three little ducklings, we haven’t started building their coop.  Instead, we are remodeling the back yard.  I’m of the persuasion that more than a small patch of lawn is a waste of space.  Mom is very attached to her lawn…or was.  I don’t know what I said, but suddenly she came around to my way of thinking, and we are getting out of the backyard lawn business.  Except for a few small areas.

We are also putting a paverstone path instead of the grassy area that always gets the most foot traffic.  In the winter, this area turns to mud, and I once used it accidentally as a very effective slip n’ slide.

Also, thanks to the influence/encouragement of Grow a Little Fruit Tree, I have planted two peach trees.  One Indian Free, the other Charlotte.

The boards are there because Dexter has discovered the joys of digging disturbed dirt.  Joy is a muddy, filthy corgi!

I also planted two cherries: Black Tartarian and Royal Ann, and have two plums on order: Coe’s Golden Drop and Mirabelle.  I’m especially excited about the Mirabelle, because there used to be house nearby with a plum tree producing mini yellow plums.  They were so good, but neither the owner nor I had any idea what they were.  Finally, though, I’m sure I figured the mystery out.  Since the house near me was sold and the tree removed, I’ll be so happy to have one of my own.

Also, I was in the local paper Sunday.  After being interviewed on keeping backyard chickens, a photographer came and took some pictures of my setup.  It’s too bad everything is in winter ugly mode right now, but the article did come out well.  I did not say I used ‘fine sawdust’ as bedding in my coop, however.  That would be a recipe for disaster!  Large flake shavings, that’s the ticket!

It was a surprise to find I’d actually made the front cover…sharing space with the human trafficers, no less!

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