Winter was back for a few days. The wild birds descended in clouds for something to eat, including a few new birds.
There was a purple finch. This is sad because it’s the first purple finch sighting of the year, when normally there would be many of them all winter.Here’s a sad robin. I don’t eat seeds.
Now that the rain has come and washed away the snow, she’s eating well, if she survived her three day fast.
There was a red-breasted nuthatch, tiny and adorable in a little badger mask. I’d never seen one before.
And then in swooped a small hawk, who perched on the pile of sticks, right in the middle of everything.Instant ghost town.
It’s a tough life being a hawk. You show up to hang out and everyone leaves.
She patiently sat around. I took pictures, looked her up in the bird book. A juvenile sharp-shinned hawk, I think (feeds on song birds). So small. She stayed. No one else moved.On the small bird feeder, one chickadee stayed motionless, locked on the raptor. Many minutes passed.On her usual perch, the squirrel was also stock still, staring at the little hawk.
Finally, she swooped away, and the raucous bird shouting and activity resumed. The chickadees recovered first.
I’ve been using the “roofs” of the beehives as bird tables, for the wild birds that would rather eat on the ground. The chickens come moseying along and frustrate them, so they’re happy to use the tables. They’re learning to share.
T.G.I. Flyday here today. All my hives are alive, and many, many bees were out flying today in the warmth.
I got to feed them, and replace some straw in the top of their hives; I was happy to find that the wet mouldy straw was only around the top and outside edge – where it was nearest the roof and corners. Nested around the bottle of syrup and the opening in the center the straw was dry and golden, bees dry.Bees were everywhere, all over the paths, in the chicken bucket, and all over.
The guineas were unperturbed, scritching around right in the middle of the hive while the bees were thick in the air. They don’t care. This is the first time we’ve had guineas that come and hang out at the house (thanks to Galahad raising them), which is great, because this is where they need to do their tick-eating thing. That’s what I hired them for.
There are baby bunnies out! They are shy and careful. They’re also grown up enough to be out on their own – no longer really babies. Juveniles.A ground nest, one of the odd long billed birds with a body shape that looks like it should be flightless. But isn’t.The chicks have their little wings already. Scampering around. The Silkies have established a favorite sitting vantage point at the top of the ramp. There’s always someone there, overlooking.
The chickens like to stand around all afternoon on top of their houses. All of the houses are fair game.And a bale sitter. I love this hen. The little silver adventurer. She’s the best. She needs a name. Cream Puff.
They are just, just about to get evicted from the greenhouse. And those old dusty poopy houses will get a good rinsing in the next rain. And then the birds can’t sit around all afternoon indoors. They’ll have to play outside. Right now they wander around outside for a few hours, and then, like they’re slacking off work, they wander back into the GH and flop around. Off duty. Time to scratch, ladies, it’s spring!
There’s that green. The world is overwatered right now and the grass is growing with all its might. Expect to see it in the eggs soon – the chickens are free range again (fair weather only).
HW comes home and says ” Where’d all these starts come from!?” “You grew these?” Yep, they’re the same ones as were there yesterday, and the day before… “They’re so big!” Yes, they are. And so green. Ready to go outside.
I was shuttling tomatoes and set a box down for one second to empty the wheelbarrow….oh…oh! Here they come, creeping. Is the hand faster than the beak? No, she got a leaftip!
I got my first chance to get into the hive. We´ve had a warm, early spring, so I’ve been feeding them, and anxious for the right warm day to come, so I can give them the third super. They´ve been unwrapped since the end of April, but this is the first time I´m going to the bottom of the hive, and the inner lid is coming off.
Phew, a chance to dump/brush all that scrap straw off the inner cover.
Since I´m going right to the bottom of the hive today, I´m wearing my bee suit. They might get testy before I get done (They didn´t. My bees are so laid-back).
The hive´s doing very well. Saw the queen – she´s so huge. Two queen cells, so they´re up to something, but I don´t think division. They might be replacing her, as there was caped brood but no brood less than a week old. I´m leaving that alone. Still, or already, a few solid frames of honey.
It get´s a bit out of hand with all the frames, and spare supers, etc, planning how I´m going to shuffle and redistribute frames.
I´m also happy to get these original plastic frames that the nuc came with up to the top super, so I can take them out this year.
Mostly my bees have been well behaved, only a little bit of bulging honey frames. A couple of burr combs full of honey that I had to break, and honey dripped all over- that keeps them occupied.
This is from a month ago, May 1, but I was so demoralized by how the day ended that I didn’t finish posting. Until now.
The chickens no longer live in the greenhouse, and it’s time for the green things to go in. I got in there with the broadfork, breaking up the rows. Tomatoes first, against the north wall.
After having all the birds wintering in the “chicken dome”, the soil looks, well, awful. It looks compacted and desiccated. It would have fooled me. But that´s not the case.
The top quarter inch or so is dry, and compacted. When I crack it with the broadfork, that top crust breaks up in scales, and right underneath, the ground is wet as anything, no harder than anywhere outside where chickens haven´t been trampling, and so very full of worms.
Really big worms.
So the hens got very excited. They were following right on my fork, poking their heads down into the holes to fish out worms, and vigorously scratching up the flakes of crust. They were feasting.
Until I decided they were being a little too hard on the worms, who didn´t have a fair chance, and I evicted the chickens.
I hung up a sheet of row cover (if there´s anything else around I use for so many things it wasn´t intended for, I don´t know) the length of the greenhouse to wall off the side I was working on from the side I wasn´t going to get to today. The birds can play on that side.
I let one chicken stay with me – my favorite low chicken.
She can use some extra worms. She was actually perturbed at being alone with the others on the other side of the cloth (they could see each other through it), but she was consoled by the worms.
You see, it was a rainy day. A drizzly morning, forecasted to be a thundering downpour day, so I didn´t have the heart to shut my birds out of the greenhouse to crowd, disgruntled and soggy, under their coops.
As it got wetter, the birds steadily found their way into the vast shelter of the greenhouse.
Inside, I kept working, attended by low chicken, while the rain drummed on the plastic and the birds all trickled in, chirruping and shaking off, pleased to be let back into the greenhouse.
It was really very cool to spend all day with my birds. It´s nice to listen to them chat, complain, brag; I could peek over and see what they´re up to.
They´re always doing something funny: piling up on the hay sacks, trying to have a bath in the roots of the fig tree (naughty!)
Planting the tomatoes out is a big day.
From past experience, I just break up the ground a bit with the broadfork, and plant directly into the ground as is. No turning! After I drew the rows with the broadfork, it was time to plug tomatoes.
Here´s where I found out how well my newspaper pots made out: the answer- excellently.
I tore off the top ring where I had written in Sharpie the kind of tomato, and left that by or around the plant as a marker. Then I tore off the rest of the paper and was left holding a tall root ball.
On the other side of the wall, the chickens had the time of their life shredding all that scrap newspaper that I´d put in a box, and littering it all over the room, the scamps.
Chickens, I´ve observed, spend a lot of time lounging. Most of the afternoon is devoted to sunbathing, dirt bathing, combing their feathers, or napping. On this rain day, they were piled up, murmuring, dropping their heads for a nap or settling right down into sleep pancakes. Others would be active, picking at something – they never all fall asleep at once, but it seems like someone´s always contentedly napping in the afternoon.
At the end of the day, tired, with 70 tomatoes and a few pepper plants planted, I turned in. It was still pouring rain and the chickens were awake, so I just left them in the greenhouse. There´d been no attempts on the wall, or breaches, so I was confident.
I was working on this post, before going out to close them up. There had also been a surge in squawking I was wondering about. …
The wall was breached- one end down, and every single tomato plant was defoliated- not a leaf left! Just a roomful of puny green stems. A couple of hens not gone to bed yet, finishing off the devastation. Next time you can get wet, you ingrates!
Before I went to bed I planted some more tomato seeds, but to say it was a major loss is a major understatement. I had some spare plants, but not an entire spare crop. I was NOT HAPPY. Completely defeated, more like.
As it turned out, despite the significant trauma of being beheaded, the same day as transplanted, almost all the tomatoes survived. Only five were broken off by the hens and therefore terminated.
It was a definite setback, but in the next couple weeks they regrew some awkward leaves, and then left that early bad memory behind. Now you wouldn´t know it had ever happened, although they might be a week or two behind where they might have been.
I’ve got my bees at work cleaning up the frames that were centrifuged last year to get the honey out.
Since that whole event was a catastrophe of timing, FAR too late, I held these sticky frames over the winter in Rubbermaids, which worked really well. Now it´s warm I set one out by the hive with the lid off for the cleanup crew.
The bees cleaned out this whole boxful in a couple days, except a couple spots. Licked totally clean, no longer even sticky to touch.
The cleaning job is of an indescribably high quality. The frames go from this:
Pristine. And a boxful in a couple days. They get a snack out of it, too.
The mud season might be very short here in Nova Scotia this year. Or else we´re just being served an appetizer of summer in mid April. 20° C and sun sun sun. I got a mild sunburn on my second garden day. The ozone layer ain´t what it used to be.
The chipmunks are back! Where DO chipmunks spend the winter? The birdsong has changed. Sparrows are here rummaging under the feeder, and the birds that wintered over have moved on to the good wild food. Swallows have been seen – the rumours are flying, the first tick bite reports are coming in, and the peepers started up yesterday morning. That means bugs and buds are right behind.
The chickens are all being encouraged out of the greenhouse, although we haven´t lifted their coops out yet, and they are reveling. Making fools of themselves in a group bath.
Unexpectedly, the Silkies are still hanging out with the layers.
Or at least, hanging around nearby, like wannabes watching the cool kids.
As usual, the guineas are furtively skulking around in the bushes. They march around systematically cleaning up (hopefully, vacuuming up ticks). They look like rocks, with their heads down all the time.
The pigs are reveling too. They have dug themselves a nice hole and stretch out with extended hooves, basking in the sun and pig-snoring, but I haven´t been able to catch them at it on camera, they leap up as soon as they hear me, and they have good ears.