March 30, 2016

Myles and the Garden Boxes

This weekend we built garden boxes...and memories...with Matt, Carly, and Myles at their home in Oklahoma.

Myles was eager to help, but the shovel proved to be too cumbersome for him, so he took on the role of supervisor.

"See this bubble, Mama? When it's in the middle, then it's level."

"Not bad, Geep, but if you turn your hand this way it will be easier to mix the compost into the soil."

"Hmm, I hope Birdie is getting all this on her camera."

"We need more in here, Mama."

"Make sure you break up that big clod, Dada."

"Well done, everyone. We make a great team, don't you think?"

March 28, 2016

The March Garden

Not only are the Texas bluebonnets opening up in our garden, but so are many other flowers. Here's a photo roundup of what's in bloom this month.

Society Garlic
Wendy's Wish Salvia
Double Knockout Rose
Mystic Spires Blue Salvia
Mexican Honeysuckle
Autumn Sage in a Pot
Mandarin Orange in a Pot
Lovely flowers, all.

March 25, 2016

Our Busy Chicks

The title of this post does not refer to the feathered variety in our backyard, but to our sweet, adorable grandchildren.

My grandmother name is Birdie, so it's only natural for me to think of them as my chicks.

Look at this, Rose!
Rose is our daughter's girl and Myles is our son's boy. Rose turned two in December and is nine months older than Myles. 

Our busy chicks spent a week together at Rose's house. We were there for the last couple of days of the visit. Even when we arrived, I could tell Myles was still not completely at ease in his new environment.

But he really came out of his shell on the last day.

May I, please?
This is more typical of his personality—quietly reaching for a book and asking permission with his eyes.

No more monkeys jumping on the bed!
Rose, on the other hand, is constantly in motion...

Thanks for the chicken book, Birdie and Geep. I really like it.
until you give her a book. She loves to read...

Safe in Geep's arms.
and swim in the hotel pool with her Geep.

I can do it all by myself.
You could say she has a bit of an independent streak.

It's not too heavy.
And I believe you could even say it runs in the family.

Thank you, God, for our little chicks.


They're busy little people, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

March 23, 2016

Texas Bluebonnets

It's bluebonnet season in Texas.

A Texas bluebonnet in our garden just starting to bloom.
On our drive to Fort Worth last week to visit our children and grandchildren, we enjoyed the wildflower vignettes along the roadsides. 

Sometimes a large standalone patch of bluebonnets, deep blue in color, would make me think we should stop and take a picture. 

A photo of Texas bluebonnets I took in April 2013, Gay Hill, Texas.
At other times a mix of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and yellow wildflowers called to me, but I didn't listen.

We kept driving on in anticipation of holding our grandchildren in our arms, enjoying the scenery along the way, but never stopping for photos.

Another of our garden bluebonnets, more fully open.
I don't regret our decision in the least...

An armful of love!
because hugs from grandchildren are far better than flower pictures any day.

March 21, 2016

Keeping My Eye on This One

She looks innocent enough, right?

Duchess running to me for a mealworm treat.

Well, there's something you don't know about Duchess.

I only learned about it recently.

It seems she loves kale.

Remember that kale we planted? That's all it now—a memory.

I mean she REALLY LOVES kale.

She ate every kale plant in the garden right down to the stems.

I caught her as she was finishing up the last leaf.

I can't blame her, really.

She was only doing what chickens do.

It was our fault for not putting up a barrier to keep her out of the garden.

I forgive her.

No ma'am, not the bluebonnets!

But I'm drawing the line at my bluebonnet flowers.

I'm keeping my eye my on this one.

March 18, 2016

They're Getting Good at This

It's another three egg day.

Brought to you by...

The Royal Flock of Poultry Palace: Duchess of Yolk, Princess Lay-a, and Queen of Eggland.

Nice work girls!

March 16, 2016

Record Keeping and Storage

Keeping a record of egg production in our small flock has added to the fun of keeping chickens. 

We are trying to track each chicken's egg production separately, which is why we had hoped each chicken would lay a distinctive egg. It's become a little tricky now that Duchess is laying and her eggs look so much like Queenies'.

I record the date and weight of each egg for each chicken in a small weekly/monthly planner that I personalized with one of my own photos.

John is using an app called Egg Tracker, which he likes. The main drawback of the app for me is that the weight can only be recorded in grams and I prefer ounces.

I also like seeing all the information in calendar form, so I can easily know the day of the week as well as the date. 

An advantage to the app is that it keeps a running total for each chicken automatically. Obviously I will have to calculate the totals on my own.

After the eggs are gathered and the information is recorded, it's time to store the eggs. Many people with their own flock of chickens keep their eggs at room temperature on the counter, but I've opted to keep ours in the refrigerator. 

I picked up two OGGI refrigerator egg trays at Home Goods for this purpose. They are clear, which I like, and have lids. Each tray has 14 egg compartments, but in a pinch you could fit a few more in if you lay them on their side.

We've filled up one tray and are working on filling the other. Looks like it's time to make an omelette.

March 14, 2016

Egg Watch in Effect

Friday was an exciting day in the Poultry Palace coop.

Duchess of Yolk laid her first egg!

I went to the coop early that morning and found three eggs in the nest—one from each hen. We think Duchess laid the one in the middle. Her egg and Queenie's (top) are so similar, it's hard to know for sure. Princess lays darker brown eggs (bottom) than both those two, so it's easy to tell it apart.

Once again, I'll have to watch the girls closely to see if I can figure this out. Egg watch is now in effect.

There were two eggs laid on Saturday (P & Q) and two on Sunday (P & ?).

Not until this morning did Duchess lay an egg that I know for sure is hers. I collected it after she left the nest box and before Queenie had a chance to lay her egg.

Queenie and Princess are both in the box right now. It looks like this is going to be another three egg day!

March 11, 2016

Happiness Is

...watching a Monarch butterfly in the garden.

...spending the afternoon on the porch with an interesting book.

...finding blossoms on the tomato plants and knowing tomatoes will be coming soon.

What has made you smile lately?

March 9, 2016

From Caterpillar to Chrysalis

When we arrived at the travel trailer on Friday afternoon, several of the Monarch caterpillars in Happy Camper Butterfly Garden were on the move to find a suitable place to make a chrysalis.

A Monarch caterpillar leaving the garden.

We began to look for chrysalises that were already formed. There was a nice one under the picnic table right next to the garden.

Monarch chrysalis. Notice the shed caterpillar skin remaining at the top and the butterfly inside.

There was also one on the fire pit, but something had gone wrong with it.

A glitch in the process.

While we were searching, we watched a caterpillar crawl up the leg of the pit and begin forming a silk pad with its mouth on the underside of the grate.

Making a silk pad.

Later when we checked, it had turned around and attached itself to the pad, hanging upside down in the characteristic J shape.

Just attached and hanging in a J shape.

The next afternoon, I noticed it was beginning to look a little different and I knew the chrysalis would be coming soon. I hoped I would see it happen.

Getting ready for a change.

Of course, I stepped away at the wrong moment and missed it.

Just formed Monarch chrysalis, top view.

However, getting to see a freshly formed chrysalis is pretty wonderful, too.

Newly formed Monarch chrysalis. Notice the silk pad where it is attached to the grate.

There were three new chrysalises formed on Saturday: the one on the fire pit (above), one under a small ash shovel we keep on the fire pit (below), and one under a chair on the deck (not pictured).

Another Monarch chrysalis under the ash shovel.

As we were packing up to come home, there were still caterpillars leaving the garden. This guy was almost stepped on a couple of times, so we moved him to the sign out of the way.

A Monarch caterpillar at Happy Camper Butterfly Garden. Staged photo.

I was hoping he would like that spot for his chrysalis, but it seems he had other ideas.

A Monarch caterpillar in search of a place to form a chrysalis.
Good luck, little caterpillar!