Bees in the goldenrod

I have a field full of goldenrod.  Mowing and discing it a couple years ago benefited the goldenrod more than anything else, and now there is less grass, clover and diversity than before.

I’m ok with that, for now.  I have a bee forage field now, and it seems like the bees are coming from miles around for it.

I barely saw any bumblebees all spring and summer; I was worried.  It was notable when I did see one.  But when the goldenrod started, the bees were back in bigger numbers than ever.   Now I’m finding them in water buckets, in my hair, in the house – getting into their usual trouble.   Just about every flower head has a half dozen bees bumbling around in it, and looking over the top of the field, it’s just dotted with bees dangling in the flowers and their hum is a quiet roar.  They sleep in the goldenrod, too.  In the morning they are all stock still (it’s cold), just paused in their work.  Some of my honeybees are among them but most are bumbles, and the goldenrod has a long season, with flowers ripening in stages, and even parts of the same plant blooming in succession.  It’s a big bee party.

There may be no keets this year

Ugh, it’s always awful logging in and seeing how long it’s been since I last posted.  Almost a whole month!!! I will try harder!

It’s been an action packed month though.  Major personal changes, and a whole lot of dental work.

The toothache I’ve been “toughing out” (not a recommended course of action) for months, outlasting the waiting period for my dental coverage, needed a root canal, so that finally happened this week, sweet relief!! but there’s more to do.

There are five new chicks, little baby Cheeks’!, to two moms, Velvet and Ghost, who insisted they were determined to have babies, and they are scampering around, little fuzz nuggets.  The “old chicks” are half-grown now, and they fight with me every night for their right to sleep in the tree.

The keets are all gone, unfortunately.  They lasted only a few days and disappeared over three.  The hen would hide somewhere at night with them, going to bed early.  Of course, there isn’t really an option to interfere with that, and then one day there were two missing, the next day down to five, and the next day, down to one.  The first two losses I thought were her negligence, but no, it is likely a fox.  Why wouldn’t it harm her?  Why only a couple at a time?  At any rate, there’s something in the woods.

When there was one keet left, I kept it alive for several days.  Evening time, I had to capture it (peeping bloody murder, getting rushed by the adult guineas), and then carry it into the greenhouse.  I’ve never gotten the guineas in bed for the night so fast.  All of them surged in behind me, bristling, I dropped the keet off in the peppers, and then locked them all in.

Then I had to go back in again and again as it got dark,  to knock mom down from the perch where she tried to roost with the grownups instead of taking care of her baby.  Eventually she would stop flying up and settle down in the tomatoes with it.  Then one evening there was no keet left at night to grab.  Sad.

The other two hens that were setting also came in (I only knew of one for sure, the other white one who would show up to wolf down some food and then leave again).  She rejoined the flock keetless.

The last hen, whom I hadn’t known was out setting, was much more vocal near the end.  She would howl every morning and night, so I knew roughly where she was nesting, and I’d see her boyfriend heading out there some nights to sit with her instead of going to bed in the GH.  In the morning she’d be yelling before I released the others, and they would go out in that direction, to visit, I’m sure.

Then one night this week I heard her shriek in the night, and I stumbled out, shouting and getting all scratched up thrashing the weeds, until I felt like a crazy person in the foggy silence.  In the morning she was waiting outside the GH for her friends.   I’m glad she was unharmed, but no keets from her either.  I can only assume her nest was raided and she narrowly escaped.

If only they would be so accommodating as to nest in the GH, or take over a coop.   It seems unbelievable now that one ever nested in the skycoop; they are so wild and insistent on doing it their way, as ill-adapted as their ways are.

Keet care share

The keets have been around more; they even got walked nearly to the house.  I hear their cheeping like tiny bells (they will grow into klaxons).  They already have dart-and freeze-in-the-grass skills, scratching, dozing, and following skills.  Little beings the size and weight of ping pong balls, walking, eating, pooping, thinking.   They’re so cute I can hardly stand it.  They are already surprisingly independent, with a noticeably larger radius of dispersion than two days ago, and the flock moves faster.  They aren’t obsessively dependent on mom at all, more that it’s important to them to stay with the group.I went out today and found a grey bird  sitting on the chicks in the cool morning.  The white (mother) hen came up nuzzling, like she was checking on her kids under the babysitter.  I thought awww, Galahad’s at it again, sitting on the keets.  Then I realized Galahad, who has been shadowing them the last couple days, was sleeping in the sun behind me.  So who the heck is this co-parenting?!

You guys have complicated relationships. 

Guineas are just SO lovely.  They have a different social system than chickens and it seems very evolved.   They accept the keets as tiny new additions that walk with the flock (reminds me of elephants).  The keets will run to any of them, it seems, and any of them might run and get a left-behind cheeping chick.  The males are super involved in keet care.

They’re so special and interesting that I just put up with the bloody noise.  Even that, though, often means something.  Not always, but often, there’s something they’re trying to say.  Like, visitors are on their way, put some clothes on!  They’ll come to the house together and yell at me, looking at me, then five minutes later someone walks up.  Don’t say we didn’t tell you.The white hen spent some adult time lounging away from the keets today, who were all with someone else.  Then all the birds were doing walkabout together with the keets flowing among their feet.  I felt very “approved of” that they let me stand so close to their pile of chicks.  When I walked right through the group was the first time I got a hint of mom flaring, reminding me of how crazy, insane cobra mom the last guinea mother I had was.  This one is zenned right out.

The other white hen was also around today!  Wolfing down food.  So maybe she’s nearing the end of her sit as well.

I’m looking forward to when she stops leaving to hunker down with them at night, and brings them to the greenhouse for bedtime.  I’ll need another laundry rack.

 

 

An extra puffy tail

The little (lone) Silkie chick has just had one extra puffy tail sprout out today, along with a tiny head crest and tiny feet feathers on those little black legs.  Looks especially good with evening back-lighting.  It’s funny what a transformative difference a day makes – chicks grow so fast.  Feathers just pop out here and there, and they go through some pretty funny stages.

This poor little chick is now only one third the size of its nestmates, which are bigger than some of the other chicks get before their Moms move on.  Mom is very patient.You know you’re too big to get sat on when…

This is the body attached to this head.  Hey, my neck is warm.  It’s stretched right out, and still trying to get some baby chick cuddles, meanwhile it’s almost as bulky as Mom.  Like a dog who thinks it’s still a puppy.  I can totally fit on your lap, I’ve done it 100x…hmmm.  Not working like it used to. 

This is the box princess and clan.  She now goes in the coop (well, I’ve moved the box inside the coop, and they still use it- and that’s its own story),  but they still settle down together pre-bedtime outside the coop.

I thought now that the little  keets had been introduced into society, they would belong and stick around, and that they would start sleeping with the others (in the greenhouse).  No.  Mom makes herself really scarce, staying on the weedy sidelines during the day and disappearing at night, so I get to worry.  Galahad comes whisking into the greenhouse late and in a hurry now.  I know he knows where they’re spending the night, but I can’t find them.

It was very unpleasant

I got poison ivy on my face.  As my friend asked, “Did you fall [face first] in it?”

Well, nearly.  We had a  lost person search happen locally that eventually lasted days and involved teams from all over the province, but the first night, it was just a half dozen of us in the dark, and we built a fire, in the dark, while waiting for the go-ahead to launch our canoes.  I had just rubbed my eyes, because of the smoke, when one of the guys noticed in the beam of his flashlight that all of us, and the fire we’d just built on hands and knees, were at ease in a giant patch of flourishing poison ivy.

Knowing this, and that I tend to get raging inflammations from a  sideways glance at poison ivy, I did full decontamination and containment protocols nine hours later when we got out of the woods. Too late.

Three days later, three suspicious red bumps on my cheek erupted into the full conflagration, my eyelids swelling alarmingly.

Gross.Poison ivy sucks.  Open, oozing wounds and blisters, and my whole body was fevered and nauseous for a couple days, and I was extra sensitive to bug bites. It was also on my hands, and back.  It’s almost over now, two weeks after exposure, and it doesn’t appear  that it will scar.   The very good news is that I avoided secondary infection!  I give the credit to tea tree oil.  I thought it would burn like stink, but it didn’t really, it was a little bit drying, which stalled the super-gross constant oozing, and I’m sure that’s what kept bacterial infection at bay.   I have not been so lucky before, and I’m glad I know now.

I got hydro-cortizone cream after my eyes swelled, but that just…took the itch off a bit.  It was too painful to scratch, so that wasn’t too tempting.Ew.

Glad it’s over!  But I had a good excuse, not blogging;)

OMG KEETS!!!

I went out to feed everyone lunch and got stopped in my tracks by a tumble of new keets!  A whole new cast of characters.  I think there’s 13.  They’re hard to count.  Little white ones and brown ones!

We already have a candidate for the lag-behind

The white guinea hen is back with a hugely successful brood!  I’ve been seeing her at the food trays occasionally the last couple of weeks wolfing down food, at off hours, so I’ve wondered.   I’ve also seen her at the end of the driveway, where I’m pretty sure she nested – the others were making not very covert visitations down there.  That means these little keets have already had one heck of a long walk to get here.It begs the question, are the others ok?  Did they survive the rains and raccoon and other roving predators?  Are two other hens going to roll out of the woods (any day, since they all disappeared at the same time) with a baker’s dozen of keets?Galahad of course, is right at her side, rushing at anyone who thinks they might get close to the keets (which is usually the chicks, who don’t understand why he’s mean all of a sudden).  She gets to be all calm and serenity, with her bulldog security detail. 

OMG, they are so much tinier and more adorable than I even remembered- so small!  Having trouble climbing out of the pot lid:) They do  come out of an egg about the size of a Silkie egg. 

 

The rain in Spain is totally insane

It has rained hard and steady for ten hours straight and isn’t done.  There is more standing water than dry land right now.  The chickens were all wading over their ankles, and the chicks in water up to their feather pants.

The rain gauge was over 120mm when I last checked.  That is insane!   The chickens spent the day in their coops and rain house; I didn’t even open them for eggs and risk letting the rain in.  The littlest chicks and mom got a greenhouse pass and probably had the best day of all plundering, although by evening they were up on a strawbale like a raft.  Some hens were camped in the rain house at night because they didn’t want to make the run to the coop at bedtime.  It’s raining that hard.

The guineas, when I went to let them into the GH for the night (extra early) were waiting by the door, soaked to the skin.  I feel soooo bad for the three missing hens, whom I assume are all sitting on eggs in the woods somewhere – exposed in this, soaked, days or weeks into a fast, and making their bodies into heating pads.  Some must be sitting in puddles right now.

We also had an epic thunderstorm.  It hurt my ears inside the house, and it (the sound– no wind at all) shook the house and made my pots rattle.  I felt the fear of Thor’s hammer.  It passed directly over, moved to six seconds away, and then it returned a half/hour later and passed right back over like it was going back where it came from!

This quantity of rainfall is pretty out of the ordinary, especially for (the entire month of) June.

Privacy Stalls

I finally got around to a simple fix to make higher walls on the nest boxes – just cardboard.  Two of the nest boxes never got any use – too exposed.  They all squabble over the corner office box and it gets vociferous.  I hear them whining- complaining, indignant, offended, self-pitying, insulted, according to their chickenalities.  I’ve been holding in an egg here for ages, and she just barged in here!  Get off of me, I was already in here!  Take a number!  With all I have to put up with around here, all I want is to be able to come in here and peacefully lay an egg, but noooo!Or the other corner.  I’ve got a barred rock starting to go broody.

Turns out all they wanted was higher walls, smaller doors.  They love the other boxes now, and immediately started laying in them.  The volume is down.  In fact, the coop tourists (Cheeks and Cleo) are leaving eggs in here now instead of in their “own” coops.

box princess

There are three sets of chick/s running around at the moment, that I see have yet to be introduced, my bad…

The other White Chocolate hen, sister to the loaner, has three chicks; the shirt chick was adopted; and this little Silkie hen has three- two Cheeklings and a Silkie chick (got rescued into the greenhouse on rain day).

  This particular hen’s quirk (they all have at least one), is that she does not, ever, want to go to bed in the coop.  Instead, she hunkers down in the grass, in the exact same place, every night.

Normally I train them to go in a box, say, in their chickery days, and then I transfer the box after dark to a lock box.

Not this one.  I have to bring the box to her.  She hunkers down; I set the box near her.Well my word, a box!  Look at that, kids!  How ideal for our purposes!They move right in.  Then I pick up the box and shuttle it into the coop.

The evening box ritual.  Every night.  Well I never!  A box, how nice.Today, because it was raining and the new chips were probably exciting, she settled down under the pine tree – daring!

Happy about living naturally