These two are dating

These two guineas are dating.  Or bonded for life; I can’t tell what stage they are at.  Probably post-commitment ceremony somewhere on the continuum, maybe still honeymoon.   It’s been nearly two months.

Here they are running away from the paparazziand seen here jumping out of the bath after privacy invaded:

You wouldn’t know that these are the tamest guineas I’ve ever had and let me get quite close.  It’s been hard to get a picture of them together, although they are ALWAYS together.  They are never farther apart than a table for two, unless I walk between them, and they can wander pretty distantly from the other guineas (dates).  I haven’t noticed any of the others paired off yet.

It’s funny because when these guineas (Galahad-raised) were juveniles, they gave the white guineas such a hard time because they were different.  Bullying, rejecting –  I considered separating them.  But now, she’s exotic.

Early morning perching practice

The fuzznuggets have started perching.  They all keep the same schedule; I’m so used to seeing moms raise their chicks now.  First, there’s very close to home chickergarten, where scratching is strongly emphasized – Mom shows them vigorous scratching in loose material, clearly for practice.  Good fling.  Look at how well Daisy is kicking.

Second comes explorer time, where the moms take their chicks off, to some distance, for I don’t know what, world acclimation and exposure to strange and unusual things.  That is the type of caterpillar that tastes disgusting, but go ahead and try it.  We also do not eat slugs.    This stage gives me palpitations because they go off in the woods and I fear for them.  This is the stage they’re in.

Next comes morning perching.  I don’t know why it tends to be first thing after breakfast, and the chicks tend to do it on their own without demonstration.  They move higher and higher in the tree and on their rack as they age.  It started today.

Eventually they move into being more clubby with the other chicks their age and needing Mom less, then they break up with Mom, or she quits.

These are Velvet and Ghost‘s chicks (Sidewinder is still around, too). I gave Velvet several eggs, and then Ghost seemed just as determined, so I split the eggs with her.  They were a mixed batch, so it’s really wild that the chicks ALL seem to be more Cheekslings.

Whoa, WHOA! This balancing thing is hard!
I’m grooming too!

Notice the other one gone for a post-perch warming in Mom’s fluff.

 

A magnificent wasp house

I really wish I’d been taking a picture every day of this wasp nest.  It would be an amazing timelapse. They build at least a layer on it every day.  Their increasing wasp-power makes an accelerating build speed possible.

This is the right corner of my wood shed.  And I think this is great, because after this year, I’m not going to have to worry about any wasps in the vicinity (they’ll probably build on the soffit of the house next year). Last year’s multiple small nests IN the utility room have blessedly deterred any wasps from living in there this year, and will as long as the paper nests last.

I wonder where they’re getting all the paper.  I see them flying out in one direction- constant traffic like the regular flight lines of honey bees shooting out of the hive – to the woods.  I imagine they’re chewing apart a dead tree.

They build their nest by adding layers to the outside.  It all starts with one queen who dangles 3+ egg cells on a stem, and then they wrap that starter home in the familiar little paper cone, and build on top of that layer by layer, with a quarter inch gap.  I’d like to know how they design the architecture inside that, if there are long spiral corridors, or they chew through the old walls to make access passages.  There remains one entrance.

They don’t bother me (yet).  I’m simultaneously totally afraid of them and not afraid of them, as they don’t hurt me (have rarely stung me, ever, over the years – they target my husband without hesitation or provocation though).   We co-exist. There’s no eradicating paper wasps from the woods here, so there’s no option but to coexist, although there’s enough wasps in that nest to bring down a horse.  They will be gone by winter, and the house they leave behind will give me a few years of wasp-free woodshed.

I unload one wheelbarrow of wood into the shed at a time, hastily!, and I can monitor them boiling out their door and blackening the outside of their house, agitated by me shaking the shed throwing wood in.  Then one or two thump me on the head in warning, just like my bees do.  I wear a hood, and I limit myself to one wheelbarrow load at a time, and everyone’s happy.

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.

The evening perch

It’s time for a good evening perch.Like mama, like chick.  They are getting quite good at the starter branch, and can walk up and down along it, and keep their balance when their chick siblings shake it by jumping on and off.This little chick, all independent, doesn’t need a warming – my money is that he’s a rooster.  She’s looking for aerial threats.    Oh!  Perching again. One of the “old” chicks.  Her cheeks are showing.  This is the little Silkie cuckoo that got raised with the big birds, and now she’s not having being put in with the Silkies.  Her sister wants to know if she’s in this picture too. There they are.Oh, hello! Little orange feet:)

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.

 

 

Reduced Impact Life