Sunday, May 25, 2008

Someone finally got the message!

Since March I have been encouraging the hens to go broody, which means to sit a nest and hatch chicks. Earlier this week, my black Australorp hen began acting crazed. Majorly hormonal. Her tail was straight up in the air, her eyes (which normally appear larger than most of the hens because they are black) got a crazed glow as if all she could see was the nest box.

But the first few days she would set, then after a few hours I would find her running with the other hens. I guess it takes a few days for the hormones to stay level.

Now she's stuck to the nest. The only time she gets out is when another hen comes to lay in that box. Then the visiting hen acts as "egg warmer" so that the black hen can take a run around, eat, drink and poop, always keeping her crazed eye on the box so that she can sit when the visitor leaves.

On Friday I marked five eggs under her, but I imagine there are maybe eight now. She's a big girl and can keep them warm without problems, but I don't want her to have too many eggs under there, so I'm going to start taking any new eggs away.

Gestation is 21 days or so, so if there are chicks it will be around Friday the 13th of June. Auspicious for a black hen!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oskar -- "OK!"

My yard is ringed with evergreen trees put in by other people. I suppose the idea was to screen the yard from the street visually, and maybe as a wind block, although the predominant wind is not blocked at all.

After my first winter here, I discovered one large pine had died. Removing it left a hole in the "pine-screen". For two years I pondered what to do. Replace it with another pine? No, the monotony does not appeal to me and I would much rather diversify. Add a few bushes for color and berries? The proportions didn't seem right.

So this spring I planted a river birch inside the fence but in line with the empty spot. When grown, its height will be appropriate, but because it is deciduous, the leaf texture contrasts with pine needles, and in the winter the bare, peeling branches will be lovely next to the evergreens. And a big plus -- river birches are accustomed to having wet feet, which a tree gets most anywhere in my yard at some point!

As you can see from the photo, Oskar is quite pleased with my choice!

Monday, May 5, 2008


Last summer I moved three mid-sized lilac bushes from an area of perennials. The weight of them almost put an end to the project -- I hadn't figured on how large the root balls would be! I installed two of them on the northwest corner of my house, near a bedroom window for the scent, and near the outdoor table for beauty.

Unfortunately for the lilacs, being on the outside of the fence dramatically reduced the amount of care they received, as well as the amount of sun.

As you can see from the photo, however, they pulled through, settled in, and are now in lovely bloom. These shots were taken in the evening, so they are a little darker than ideal. The bushes need to fill in some, perhaps a gentle pruning after the bloom would help that. It's important to me that they fill in a bit, and then add about a foot of height.

And that is important because my goal is to mask the view of the humongous silos across the street! While I do appreciate living in an agricultural setting, watching the farmers run their huge John Deeres through the field, driving slowly behind a cultivator or an overflowing truck full of hay bales, I also enjoy the notion that my house is oriented away from the guts of the neighboring farm. The picnic table is one of the few places in my yard where one gets a view of the silver silos. So I need another foot of height from these lilacs. Or else!