Baby robins spreading their wings

Baby robins in a nest

A few weeks ago, a mama robin moved into one of the old nests on the driveshed. Last week, I noticed a few tiny mouths stretching up over the edge of the nest.

On Sunday, Mama and Daddy were trying to convince the babies it was time to leave the nest. One tried to tempt them with some food.

Robin with a worm in its mouth

But the babies did not agree it was time to fly on their own.

Baby robins

Every so often, the parents would discuss their problem children.

Pair of robins

One flew down to the ground to try a different angle. Of course, Ralph noticed. That led to a discussion between Ralph and me.

The babies stayed high on the rail at the driveshed–even though I convinced Ralph to move on.

Baby robins

I didn’t see the babies finally take flight. I hope that they found their way safely. I enjoy all of the different animals who call the farm home. New babies are extra special.

Terrible, terrible ticks

Tick on Baxter's leg

Ticks have been awful this spring.

We’ve removed more than 20 ticks from Baxter, ourselves and various surfaces in the house. Matt has expanded and extended pathways all around the farm so that we can avoid the long grass of the fields. We’ve made tick checks part of our regular routine every time we come into the house.

Container of ticks

I try not to worry about them too much. I know some ticks can carry dangerous illnesses, but we’re diligent checking ourselves and the dog regularly and pulling off any we find. (I wrote an article for ThatMutt.com about techniques for protecting Baxter from ticks.) As much as the quantity of ticks we’ve faced this spring is an anomaly, I feel like ticks are part of living on the farm.

However poor Matt is losing his mind. He’s mowed so much grass this spring–determinedly riding Wiley around on tick killing missions.

The one upside of this plague is that adding birds to our family has moved up our list. Hens, particularly guinea hens, eat ticks. Birds have always been on our someday list, but Matt has put them on the “we need to kill these ticks now” list. When my husband makes a decision, things happen fairly quickly.

Tick held in tweezers

After that statement, you might expect to see a picture of a cute fluffball chick or a feathered hen here. We’re not that impetuous. First we will build the coop and then we will get our birds. But I think we may have found our summer project.

Any coop building tips to share? Or any tick fighting strategies? Do you have ticks at your house? What pests are you battling this spring?

Real life in Illinois

Unfortunately, nothing seems to be going well right now for Sarah in Illinois. But philosophically, she says, “That is life!” She is here today with a chicken, fruit tree and garden update.

I’d love to start this post with a tale of how I walk out into my back yard, with my dog at my side. We walk to the chicken coop where we lovingly pet the chickens, gather more eggs than we could eat, then walk over to the garden. We pick multitudes of strawberries, sugar snap peas, rhubarb and gaze at the full garden of healthy, thriving plants that will soon provide healthy vegetables to all of our meals.

Unfortunately, this is real life. And life doesn’t care about your plans.

This post will be full of things that have gone wrong. But I promise, I am keeping a positive outlook.

Chickens

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know what I am going to write here. One of my chickens died. I don’t know what happened.

Last weekend our neighbor texted Steve and said that she had some type of predator that has been getting in her barn, and it killed two of her young kittens. So Steve went to help her, and the plan was to set a live trap and hopefully catch the culprit.

The next evening I went to close up my chickens and I found the Rhode Island Red dead in the corner of the coop. The other three chickens are perfectly fine.

I inspected the coop and run and found no point of entry. There was no blood and no damage to the body of the chicken. So even though I have been on alert with my neighbor having an issue, I really don’t feel a predator killed my chicken. I think it must have had some problem that I was not aware of. But believe me when I say, I am keeping a much closer eye on the coop.

Fruit Trees

I posted a few weeks back that we had planted two cherry trees. I had ordered them through a seed and plant catalog, and they came bare root. If you have seen a small bare root tree, it basically looks like a stick.

I had confidence that with all the rain (more on that below) I would see some sort of life in our two “sticks,” but after about 4 weeks they showed no sign of life, no leaf, no bud. In fact one was very brittle and Steve was easily able to break the top off.

One day we were at our local “buy everything in one stop” store and there was a 4-foot cherry tree with healthy leaves and even a couple cherries hanging from it.

We decided it was time to give up on our “sticks” and purchase trees that were about 4 years further along in the growing process.

While we were there I told Steve that we should go ahead and pick up a peach tree. They looked healthy and peaches are Steve’s favorite fruit. He looked them all over, made sure the leaves looked healthy, made sure the trunk was straight and we made our purchase. When we got home, we dug a hole and when we lifted the tree to set it in, we saw the tag hanging off of it: Apple Tree ‘Pink Lady.’

We got a good laugh out of how both of us could inspect this tree so closely, look at the leaves that were obviously not peach tree leaves and still bring home an apple tree.

The next day we went back up and picked up two peach trees. We checked and double checked the tags this time.

Garden

In my last post, I talked about how much rain we had.

In 6 days we measured 9.7 inches of rain in our rain gauge. Since then I haven’t kept as close record, but I know for certain we have had at least another 3 inches. I looked online and our average rainfall for the month of May is 4 inches. We have had over three times our normal rainfall.

As I write this, the forecast is calling for 80% chance of thunderstorms tonight and 50% chance tomorrow. So the fact that I have ANYTHING growing in the garden is close to a miracle.

I have had to replant potatoes, but thankfully the second crop has broken ground and is much more likely to make it.

We also replanted cucumbers and sugar snap peas, and they also look much better.

Remember last year when I overdid it on the radishes? We we took a much better approach this year, and my crop is a lot more manageable.

However, our tomatoes and green peppers are showing signs of stress from the excess rain. The leaves are starting to yellow. We planted 2 green peppers on little mounds hoping that would help, but I am still not sure about them.

As you can see, our garden is struggling a little bit. But it is still early and I have high hopes that it will come around. Looking closely at my pictures, you can see I have some weeding to do.

As soon as it is possible we still need to plant green beans, squash, cabbage, watermelons and sunflowers. I will plant pumpkins sometime in early July for an October harvest.

That looks so, so soggy, Sarah. You’ve had some tough breaks. I love that you can still laugh about apple-peach trees and look ahead to a successful harvest.

Odds and sods

Collage of photos

We’ve had some ups and downs over the last couple of weeks, but tonight the first long weekend of the “summer” begins. We don’t have a lot of plans for this weekend, which is probably a good thing. There may be gardening. There may be hiking. I may simply sit in the garden with my book.

Here is some of what we’ve been up to, and some other interesting things I’ve seen recently.

  • One of the big downs was that Matt was in a car accident and has a broken arm as a result of the airbag. We’re very grateful that he was not more seriously hurt, and it looks like his car is going to be replaced fairly easily, so things are looking up now. Plus the blue cast that he chose put the Blue Jays on a bit of a winning streak–one that they can hopefully recapture this weekend.
  • While we’re watching the baseball games, I’m hoping I can multi-task and catch up on some of the One Room Challenge reveals that I haven’t seen yet.
  • I got a new phone two weeks ago. This is a huge upgrade over my four year-old Blackberry. I’ve been super impressed with the camera, which gave me one of my favourite pictures so far of Ralph surveying her domain from the barn.
  • Just because we can’t play favourites, there’s another cute photo of our other furry dude and some of his furry friends (are horses furry?)
  • Back to Ralph, I’m adding catnip to the garden for her this year. I came across this cat herb garden last week, and now I’m thinking our best girl might need a few other herbs too.
  • Another brilliant garden idea that I saw this week was this double-duty yard tool/yard stick for the garden–so smart.
  • Ending on one more up, trillium season is always special. I love seeing their flowers around the farm. We even have one blooming in our front garden.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. And to my fellow Canadians, Happy Victoria Day. How are you marking the weekend?

A whole clutch of wild turkey eggs

Clutch of turkey eggs

On Friday I shared with you a wild turkey egg that Matt had found while walking with Baxter. On Saturday while clearing one of our very over-grown areas, I found turkey eggs.

Look at these.

Nine turkey eggs

From the looks of the nest and the feel of the eggs, these are not from this season.

I’m a bit dismayed that this clutch was obviously not successful. But I’m ecstatic that I got to see this nest.

Ahh, I need some birds of my own.

Wild turkey egg

Wild turkey egg

My husband knows me well. He found this wild turkey egg while he was walking Baxter and carried it home for me.

Little things like this bring both of us so much joy now that we’re living on the farm.

It’s broken, and it’s so early in the season that I don’t think we have a little poult running around. But perhaps it’s still early enough that a mama turkey may be out there somewhere on this Mother’s Day weekend.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms–human, avian or other. I hope that you have a special weekend.

Building a chicken run in Illinois

Chickens are on my wishlist for the farm. But part of what’s holding me back from getting them is the coop. I know I need to rebuild the coop and part of that is a secure, covered run for our birds. Sarah in Illinois is nearly a year into chicken farming, and she has recently added a run for her hens. She’s sharing that project today, and also looking ahead to a few more.

As I mentioned a few posts back, I was concerned with keeping my chickens free range. I loved that they could roam the yard, pick all kinds of greens and bugs and worms and have such a healthy diet. However, Blitz was becoming quite a concern for me.

I know very well that it is his natural instinct to chase and catch. I also know that the only way for us to overcome this is for me (and the other members of our family) to work with him constantly, to train him and teach him to leave the chickens alone.

It is still possible for us to achieve this and for Blitz and the chickens to live in peace and harmony, but then Steve and started thinking about how we were going to keep the chickens out of the garden this year and we decided it was time to make a chicken run.

We will not get any awards for our design or our building technique but the chickens are safe from Blitz and our garden is safe from the chickens.

20170409_173010

It wasn’t long after we built our run that I read that Kit over at DIY Diva was building a run for her free range chickens. Unfortunately, she lost a few of her flock before she could get them contained. I am thankful that we only had a very close call with one, and all four are doing well now.

We used part of the existing welded wire fencing to make a run about 8 feet wide and the length of the barn. Then we lined the inside of this fence with chicken wire. To support the roof we used old fence poles that we had laying around. We ran the chicken wire over the top and secured all of our seams by twisting wire ties every few feet.

Like I said, we did not use any advanced carpentry skills. If we ever get a hungry raccoon looking for a meal I don’t think that our fence will do anything but slow him down. I still make sure to close their coop door every night, and I look over the fencing often to make sure there are no signs of something trying to make its way inside.

I don’t recommend our approach for anyone with problems with tougher predators. We did not put anything underground like Kit did. Her approach was much more thorough. It is also possible that we will have to reevaluate everything if we get other predators, but for now it is keeping out one goofy pup.

I also mentioned last time that I was going to set my new goals for my next three months. So here we go. By June 30 I hope to have a few more things accomplished:

1. Light box for my mom.

She has asked me a few times to make her one and has even sent me pins about it, but I haven’t started one yet. So that will be a good project for rainy days or evenings.

A light box is basically a shallow box with a clear or opaque lid. Inside is a light and when you put something that you want to trace on top the light shines through and lets you trace much easier.

My mom loves to sew (mostly quilts) and she could really use one. I have pinned one that I am going to base my design on but I need to talk to mom and make sure these dimensions work for what she needs.

2. Grill lighting

We need to figure out some type of lighting for around our grill on our deck. I say “we” because Steve does most, if not all, of the grilling, so I am going to have him help me decide what will work and look the best. Right now, this is purely just an idea in my head and I have done no research.

3. The Garden

For my third project I am not setting a specific project. I am just going to say “garden.” The list of what needs done is so long that I am going to just group it all together and say that any work that gets done in the garden is on my “to-do” list.

We increased the size of our garden this year to 68 feet by 64 feet. With the rain we have gotten lately, we are behind on getting our potatoes in the ground.

So basically, if I am not working on numbers one and two listed above, I need to be in that garden.

I know what you mean about “garden,” Sarah. I actually think it should be “The Garden.” That’s a huge area you have. Between that, the puppy, the chickens and your other projects, you will definitely be keeping yourself busy. Hopefully the run helps to make at least a couple of things easier. It looks like it should do what you need it to. Good luck with your list.

Sunset visitors

After just over five years of farm living, the novelty of the wildlife lives on and passes through our property has not worn off.

At sunset on the weekend, we had three deer munching in the back field, and much, much closer we had one very chill deer relaxing in the centre field.

Eventually she stood up and trotted away, white tail waving.

The whitetails were waving again on Monday morning when Baxter and I were out for our pre-dawn walk. The white was all we could see as four deer headed away from us through the dark field.

They keep coming back, though, and have been in the back field each evening so far this week. And it’s still exciting every time.

A heck of a hive

Giant wasp nest on the ground

Snow melts. Grass dies. And all of a sudden things appear.

Things like a giant wasp nest.

Giant wasp nest on the ground

I’ve never seen a nest this large. Let alone one built on the ground.

Never mind knee high to a grasshopper. This is knee high to a grown (albeit not super tall) woman.

Giant wasp nest on the ground

Have you ever seen a nest this large? Is spring uncovering anything at your house?

Progress, not perfection

Sarah is making progress on her projects in Illinois. Today, she’s sharing some of that progress, as well as the lesson that it’s okay to strive for progress over perfection.

“Progress, not Perfection.”

I am not sure who said it first. A quick internet search shows many people using this phrase. My cousin is a personal trainer, and she uses it for her clients. It is a great reminder when you are trying to be healthier, but I think it pertains to so much in life.

That is what I am going to use for my personal home goals too. I did not finish any of my first three projects yet, but I did make progress.

If you look back to my earlier post one of my goals is to paint Blitz’s dog house. I still haven’t decided what color I want to paint it but that doesn’t stop me from going ahead and priming it.

Of course I had help. Because when you have a 6 month old puppy, you really can’t do anything without him being under your feet.

Or close enough to what you are painting that he gets white paint on his head and ears.

So there has been progress.

In other news, while I was out in the yard today I noticed new growth at the base of my mums.

You probably remember my massive mums from previous posts. My dad wants a few starts from it, so when the weather warms up quite a bit I will split it up again like I did last year.

When we went over to visit my parents today, my mom showed me her plans and shopping list for her garden for this year. Seeing the starts of the mums and seeing my mom’s plans made me realize, I am already behind on my garden planning this year.

I need to just keep making progress.

Thanks for the reminder, Sarah. It’s great to see the progress that you–and Blitz–are making. I love the paint in his fur. Such a helpful guy. I hope you’re able to continue making progress.