07 November 2008

Better Buckeye Update- 12 weeks

I wasn't happy with the photos of the Buckeyes I posted yesterday. I've been jumping back and forth between doing the blog photos at Flickr, uploading to Blogger directly (hence the small photos yesterday - that is my least favorite method...) and using the Picasa web albums now that there is a new Mac uploader. The last method seems to be working well. The photo size options are not the best - either the tiny 400px like yesterday, or the giant 800px below. (I prefer a nice 600px) But's it's fairly speedy and easy, so we'll go with BIG photos!

So I went out to get some photos of the girls again at 12 weeks old. Tossed out some oats for them to snack on to keep the group close to the camera. Otherwise, they will come briefly to check out what you are doing, then most will wander away, while the handful of particularly chummy birds will stand so close that it's hard to walk around without stepping on anybody.

Above is a group shot, mostly Buckeyes with a few Black Australorps thrown in. If you missed the post on why Buckeye chickens are pretty special, you can read about Buckeyes at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy page here. You have to be careful though, on that website, or else you'll find yourself with a new hobby of preserving heritage livestock like I did. It could be worse, I could have picked cows or horses to work with! (I wish I had that much land!) Anyway, it's a great organization to join and their newsletters are really interesting.

But back to the Larrapin Buckeyes. Note the chicken bloomer shot above. Since I had tossed out oats, it became difficult to get any pics that included their heads, since they were VERY busy looking for those oats in the leaves. This is my sneaky way of making my chickens work for a living. All leaves get raked into the chicken pen, all scratch grains get tossed on the leaves. And presto, a month later the leaves are reduced to a finely ground leaf mold that is exquisite for a compost base or for mulching garden beds! This method words even faster if your chickens are in a smaller coop - you can pile in the leaves and they will work on them all day, every day!

Above is a good representative photo of the pullets at 3 months old. They have huge feet! If chicken are like puppies, these should grow up to be big girls!

Buckeye's have lovely feathering, even if their coloring is pretty routine. The feathers are very distinctive and textured as you see above. Another characteristic in the literature that turns out to be VERY true is their need for a lot of space. These gals love to explore and wander the whole pen - a series of three paddocks. So I can see they would not like a constrained space. They are the ultimate free rangers it seems. I do note though, they like a long afternoon nap sprawled on the hay in the sun... Smart chickens.

This is one of the personable girls, saying, Hey, got anymore oats in your pocket?? They are very curious and like sparkly things - especially my ring. I switched to oats from cracked corn for scratch since the oats are supposed to be better for egg production. (Though that will be a while for these girls...) I'll add some corn in over the winter for heat. The Buckeye's are bred to be fine in Ohio winters, so Arkansas winters - even in the farthest NW corner where we are, should be a cakewalk for these girls. Note the very small pea combs - that's to avoid frostbitten wattles in cold climates.

And then the guinea hoodlums show up, run all the girls off and the photo session is over. Thanks for getting to know the Buckeyes better. For folks with the room, they are a fine chicken to preserve.

06 November 2008

Buckeye Update- 12 weeks

The girls are growing up! Here's a Buckeye pullet, about 12 weeks old, out for an afternoon stroll in the leaves..

And here's the wide angle view of the gals out of their pen and strolling the grounds and nibbling on everything...luckily it's late enough in the season that the nibbling doesn't matter... The Buckeyes are comparable in size to the Black Australorps, which is pretty good.

And finally for this quick post today, a shot of one of the random hardware-store roosters I accidentally bought. I don't know what kind he is, but he is beautiful, if shy. Well there's a superquick poultry update before I dash off to work!

03 November 2008

What a difference two weeks makes...

Still on the subject of time, I look around today at the thinning leaves on the branches, the sea of copper oak leaves on the grass, and I can't believe that just about two weeks ago it looked like the pictures below.

The fig tree made it up pretty big this year! As I've said before, being from Alabama where figs really grow into tree sized, this still seems like a fig bush to me.

It's a brown turkey fig tree (bush) and this year for the first time we had several handfuls of delicious figs. Incredibly, this hot spot against the south facing wall is still a little too shaded by a neighboring sycamore tree to bear fully. The figs don't really ripen till October. By that time the sun has dropped low enough for the sycamore to cast shade. Hmmm. I'd like to plant another higher on the property to get *more* sun. Amazing that the Arkansas Ozark sun is still not quite enough for these guys!

This narrow leaf sunflower was a beauty this year.

This was one of the last monarchs to emerge. This was his first hour of morning sunshine. His wings were still soft. I hope he caught a strong tailwind and made it down to warmer climes before the first frost we had on October 25th or so.

So it will be many months till it looks like this again. But there's plenty to do, designing, reading and dreaming of the garden 2009! Thanks for stopping by Larrapin for a look back to two weeks ago. The next post will be a Buckeye update!

02 November 2008

Where does the time go?

My Grandmother always said time speeded up when you got older. I guess I thought she meant when I got her age, not my age now! Autumn is here in all her glory. The leaves are full of color and falling on every breeze. This purple birdhouse in the front yard maple looks like a postcard for Autumn to me. Of course it is Arkansas, so I'm out messing around in the garden every day, getting beds cleaned out and covering them with a deep coat of chopped leaves. Ahhh, back to the chopped leaves.

You see for the first time ever, this year I was on the ball enough to plant a cover crop. A lovely cover crop, the "soil-builder" mix from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. It came up and got about six inches high. Looked completely lovely, like it was doing fabulous things to the soil right before my eyes. Then killer-bambi descended.

We are having deer trouble for the first time in ten years of gardening in two states surrounded by deer. Our big dog Shug is about 13 now. She's still pretty tough up close - she's a big chow mix, but her eyesight and hearing have faded enough that she doesn't see or hear the apparent HERDS of bambi that must march like hungry zombies out of the woods towards the garden while Shug keeps her nearsighted and nearscented watch from the porch many yards away. Ahh, the indignities of old age... Shug would be mortified if she knew there were armies of deer *just* over there in the garden. You can tell them by the crunching...

So anyway, the deer ate the cover crop down to the stubs. Horrors. So I'm back to covering the raised beds with deeps layers of chopped leaves. Not as good for the soil as cover cropping, but the next best thing for me. Sigh... I will get even with killer bambi. I've been online and discovered the electric-fence-wire-dabbed-with peanut-butter treatment. Next time I'm at Tractor Supply, a fence charger is on my list. And a big jar of peanut butter. Bambi, prepare for a PB & J (peanut butter & jolt) you won't forget!

I know this sounds harsh from a person who welcomes (most) wildlife to the garden with open arms. But some wildlife just can't be good neighbors with the garden. Nevermind there are fields of grass all around that seem fine for cattle. And acres of brushy woods that deer favor. So bambi, please back off a bit. I'll try the fence and see if that works. It's not fatal, if a bit startling, no doubt. If that doesn't work, I may have to sit out in the garden with the shotgun like Ozark gardeners of the past have probably done many a night, protecting the garden, and planning for venison stew!!