Friday, October 30, 2015

Marauding Chickens

We have started our fall garden and have some nice leaf lettuce. Here's some of it.  It is almost ready to harvest.

We put cattle panels over the beds to keep the chickens out and also as a support for plastic we will cover them with to protect the lettuce from frost later in the year.

We also have some in the cold frames. 

However, the panels have not served as a deterrent to keep the chickens out.  Notice the bunch of Swiss chard closest to the camera.  It has been stripped of most of the leaves by marauding chickens.

And, here's how they were doing it.  They were obviously smarter than we gave them credit for! 

One of the smaller hens could even fit through the openings in the panels and was discovered down in the bed helping herself to the luscious greens.  Therefore, they were confined to their pen until we could beef up the defenses.

I really like to let them out of their pen to free-range.  So, here's my solution.  I cut bird netting to fit over the cattle panels.

Once they were all covered with net, I let the detainees out of jail.

The first thing they did was head over to the lettuce patch, but at least, for now, they have not figured out a way to get past the netting.  Not that they have not tried.  You can almost see the wheels turning in Bossy's head trying to figure out a way to get around it.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fall Wildlife

Fall is in the air and we have started feeding the deer again.  I've set up the wildlife camera and have been rewarded with a show of wildlife and some not-so-wildlife.  

Our deer feeder is just an old refrigerator vegetable drawer with holes drilled in the bottom.  "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is our motto!  We buy dried corn at the local Atwoods store or at the mill.  Each day, Tom puts a coffee can full of corn in the feeder.

It didn't take the local deer population to find it.

Some of them even come out before dark to get first dibs.

Some of them get pretty frisky.

There are other animals that come through during the night.  Like this coyote.

And this possum (yeah, I know it is technically an Opossum).  See him at the very bottom.  He just barely made it in the picture.

And, there are the animals that come through during the day.

The chickens occasionally stray over to this part of the property, but they don't seem interested in eating the corn.

We dog-sat for our daughter's dog during fall break and she got her picture taken too.  She looks a lot like our dog, but it smaller and has floppy ears instead of erect ears, like Sally.

This past summer was so hot and humid that I could hardly bear to go outside.  So, I am loving this cooler weather.  The wildlife is becoming more active and so am I!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Texas Peppers

You may remember my post earlier this year about the ceramic, chicken-shaped flower pot I bought while visiting friends who spend the winter in south Texas.  Our chickens were not amused by the new addition.   If you missed that, here is a link to it:

Our friends spend about 6 months near McAllen, Texas, just north of the Rio Grande river, in a mobile home park that caters to senior citizens.  There are two large recreation halls in the park.  They are always hopping with card games, pool tournaments, quilting classes and every other activity you can think of.  Our friends are named Pat and Jim and we have been friends with them for many years.  Here they are.

For years, Jim had a back-yard garden and has shared seeds with me.  A few years ago he gave me some seeds for "climbing okra".   It is not really okra, but is quite tasty and can be cooked in several ways.  Here's an entry I wrote in that.

This spring he gave me seeds from some tiny peppers that grow in their flower bed in Texas.  These come up volunteer every year from seeds dropped by the previous year's plants.  He says a Hispanic man who was doing some work for them said his family likes to eat them scrambled in eggs for breakfast.  They are supposed to be very hot.

Well, I planted the seeds Jim gave me and ended up with several plants.  I set several of them out in a flower bed and planted another couple in pots.  I wasn't sure they would do well this far north, but was surprised to see they grew nicely. 

I planted one of them in a Smart Pot (remember these,  Smart Pots ).  Here is a picture of that pepper plant.

If you look closely, it has tiny white flowers.  Here's a closeup of one.

The peppers are tiny as well and are black.  I believe they will turn red as they ripen.  

I have yet to work up enough nerve to taste one of them, but am planning to do so the next time I make scrambled eggs.  Of course, I'll have to make sure I don't put any of them in Tom's eggs.  He is not a fan of peppers, especially hot ones.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fall Grasses - Indian Grass

Along the same lines as my last post (Yellow Foxtail Grass), this one is about another grass that has put on a spectacular display in our landscape this fall.  

For the last couple of years, I have tried to mow around clumps of native grasses so they would form seed heads and reseed themselves.  I do this to lend an open prairie look to our front yard. 

Most of the grass in the above picture is Little Bluestem whose stems have a bluish hue early in the summer and turn golden brown in the fall.  However, this year I noticed a clump of grass that was obviously not a variety of bluestem and left it to see if I could identify it when it got bigger.  

I was delighted with it and eventually identified it as Indiangrass.  Here's what it looks like.

The grass stays low most of the year and then gets tall before blooming in early autumn.  It starts out with large, open heads, like this. 

But, as it begins to form seeds, the heads dry and form long, narrow stalks (panicles).

As you can see, it is a beautiful grass.  It was one of the dominant grasses of the tallgrass prairie which once covered large parts of the Midwest. It typically grows 3-5' tall and is noted for its upright form and blue-green foliage.  The foliage turns orange-yellow in fall, as can be seen above, and will continue to provide beauty in the landscape well into winter.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Fall Grasses - Yellow Foxtail

Last fall I became interested in the wide variety of grasses that were flowering and making seeds.  I wrote a blog entry on one of the grasses called Little Bluestem.  Here's that entry:  Little Bluestem

This year I've identified several more grasses from a book I bought when we went to an open house at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve last fall.  I wrote about that as well:   Tall Grass Prairie Preserve

This article is about Yellow Foxtail grass.  The seed heads look like this and it is easy to see that it looks somewhat like a fox's tail.

On our land, it grows in patches that are sort of ugly.

I viewed it as a weed until I identified it and began to read about it.  I found that it is one of the most important foods for many species of wildlife.  In fact, it was planted long ago in China and is among the earliest of cultivated grains.  So, even though, it is unsightly and does not make for a perfect lawn, it is a grass that has a great many benefits.

In fact, I first noticed it when it was flowering and, when looking at it from a distance, it had a purplish/pinkish hue.   Yes, grasses do have flowers.  When viewed up close, the flowers were really quite pretty.

Now, a word of caution.  There are many varieties of grasses that fall in to the foxtail category.  Some of them have long spikes on the seeds that, when dry, can be dangerous to dogs because the spikes can cling to the fur and work their way into the skin causing lesions which may become infected.  Or, they can get into a dog's nasal passage or ear canal and cause even more serious health problems.  The good news is Yellow Foxtail is not one of the dangerous foxtails.  

For more information, please see the following two links.