July 29, 2010

After what seemed like a long lull in garden productivity, we are now cranking out green beans and tomatoes faster than we can keep up with! We canned our first batch of green beans this morning. Despite the bounty, I can't help feeling like I did something wrong with the garden this year. For one thing, we are going to have little, if any, yellow squash and zucchini. I don't know how you mess up squash and zucchini, but I somehow managed to. Surprisingly, our pie pumpkin patch, planted almost as an after thought, is looking like it will be a bumper crop. I'm always amazed at how different one year's garden can be from the next.

We're still very far behind on rain, although we do get the occasional tenth of an inch here or there. I've pretty much let all of my flowers go, especially the ones in pots. It was just getting too stressful bringing them back from the brink of death on a daily basis! All of my houseplants have been replaced with cacti, so I'm thinking my outdoor flower beds might go the same way.

The baby guineas (amazingly still a dozen of them!) are several weeks old now and not looking quite so babyish. They're getting feathers and testing out their feeble little wings. Thankfully, Mama guinea seems to be less paranoid about their safety at this point. I've actually been able to refill the waterer in the chicken pen without wearing the helmet!

The biggest news of the moment is our recent acquisition of a 24-foot yurt from the Pacific Yurt company. It is a pre-owned yurt that was used for several years at a retreat near here. The owner, whose health has declined recently, was no longer using the yurt and graciously offered it to Joe's mom, who was excited to pass it on to us. Once we get it set up, the yurt will give us 452 square feet of living space, more than double the 192 square feet we currently have. This means that if and when a baby ever comes into the picture, we won't have to clean out from under our bed to find room for it! Although the long-term goal of a real house has not changed, this yurt will also buy us plenty more time to figure out how to make that happen.

We have started clearing out a space to build the platform/deck that the yurt will sit on and hope to get it all assembled in the next few months. We love our current living situation, so we won't necessarily move into the yurt until a baby makes it necessary, but it will be great guest quarters in the meantime. Here's a photo of the yurt packed into the truck and headed to our place.

July 19, 2010

Ahh, rain! We've had several, smaller rain events in the past week and now finally we're getting an actual rainy day. The delicious irony is that today we were having a group of friends come over to help us give our garden a good, thorough watering. We've postponed our get together, but the garden is getting a thorough watering just the same. If only we'd known we could have scheduled this weeks ago. :)

On a random side note - Joe and I had the same dream the other night. Side effects of living in a little house??

July 14, 2010

As promised, here is a photo of the baby guineas. I know it is not a great picture, but it was taken from quite a distance, using the chicken house as protective cover. You can see the crazy look in Mama G's eye!!

She continues to terrorize poultry treat time with her misplaced aggression. I have been wearing long pants, long sleeve jacket and a motorcycle helmet to feed and close up the birds at night. However, last night I let it slide and BAM!!, she got me on the side of the head while I was trying to open up the barrel to get to the cracked corn! I've definitely learned my lesson! Until those babies are old enough to vote, the helmet stays on at feeding time!

I didn't take the attack laying down, though. As soon as I regained my wits, I chased her and the rest of the guineas around the corner of the chicken pen, angrily demanding respect and shaking my finger for emphasis. The flock of flustered guineas ran right into a hornets nest, who also began angrily demanding respect! I immediately forget my bruised head and bruised ego and ran the other way. The adult guineas followed my example, but the poor little babies ran around helter skelter in the midst of the angry hornets, squeaking and popping in the air like popcorn when they got stung! It was a sad sight, but luckily they soon regained their bearings and ran to find Mama G.

All in all it was a royally failed chicken-pen-up attempt. Nobody got any chicken scratch, and in the melee I didn't even get the pen door latched. Within minutes the chickens were all out playing again. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

On the bright side, we have managed to get almost a quarter inch of rain in the past few days!! Certainly not a drought breaker, but oh so very good for the soul.

July 09, 2010

This is a sad update to write, but Pippin the kitten has died. Over the last weekend it became obvious that she had some problems and she wasn't eating or drinking much at all. Tuesday morning we took her to the vet where they wormed her, rehydrated her, force fed, etc. and received a good report on Tuesday evening that she seemed to be bouncing back. On Wednesday morning, however, we got a call that she had taken a sudden turn for the worse and died overnight. Although we were sad to hear the news, we felt good that we'd given her a few good days before her end. It seems the real birthday present was a lesson in compassion and selfless giving.

Death is only half the story of course, and there's new life on the farm! One of our female guineas has successfully hatched out 13 WEE little babies. They are about half the size of a baby chicken. We only get occasional glimpses of the new family as the mother keeps them herded out in the fields or woods most of the time. This is just as well because the mother is a determined protector and seems to take my attempts to help out her brood as threat to their well being. This is a conundrum because she wants the food and water I provide but doesn't want me getting close enough to provide it!

Every evening I go through the same "put the chickens to bed" ritual where I call everyone back to the coop and give treats (aka chicken scratch) before locking the pen for the night. Only Reynaldo and the hens spend the night in the chicken house, but the guineas come running for their share of treats as well. Mama guinea brought her chicks to share in the nightly feast, but she attacked me THREE times while I was trying to refill water bowls and scatter scratch. Such gratitude!! After the third round of wearing a screaming, flailing guinea for a hat, I abandoned the scene and left them to fend for themselves. Joe had to go in later, after everything had quieted down, and close the food barrel.

I'll hopefully have a picture to put on here soon, if I'm brave enough.....

July 04, 2010

On Friday, I got a surprise birthday present from the universe at large in the form of a very small kitten. Joe and I celebrated my 30th birthday by going to lunch and the movies in Blacksburg. On our way home we stopped in Christiansburg to say hi to Banjo and Yoda (our former goats) and take them some carrots. While we were hanging out with the goats, a little kitten popped out of the tall weeds right behind us. We were in an area surrounded by businesses and highways with no residences in sight, so we could only assume this was a stray little waif. My sister Lynn came to meet up with us and get some ice cream at the grocery store. I almost had her convinced that she needed to take this kitten home when the kitten climbed in her lap and pooped all over her nice khaki pants. Not the best first impression!

So, for better or for worse, the kitten came home with us. Wilson has been doing a grand job of ignoring Foxy's existence for four years now and doesn't see any reason to treat this cat any differently. Foxy is siding with Wilson in this case. Lily, who has been in love with Foxy from first sight, had a veritable seizure of excitement when first introduced to the little sprite. She stood transfixed and trembling for almost ten minutes just staring at the kitten. Neither Joe and I nor the kitten were quite sure whether this intense emotion was due to love or hunger. Lily is very respectful of the kitten's "requests" for more personal space and is catching on that the way to get the kitten's attention is to be calm, quiet and approachable. In fact, moments after this picture was taken, the kitten climbed over onto Lily's back.

While there hasn't been an official naming as such due to some doubt about the kitten's gender, the name Pippin (a variation of pipsqueak) seems to have stuck in a unisex sort of way.

Joe gets serious brownie points for his creative present wrapping. It only took him several hours, most of a roll of Scotch tape, and a whole seed catalog to merge several small presents into one beautiful, unidentifiable package. He was so proud of it; he kept wanting me to shake it and see if I could guess what it was.

Apparently this was present wrapping plan B as I'd inadvertently spoiled plan A earlier in the week by taking a bunch of cardboard boxes and crumpled brown packing paper to be recycled. He'd even tried to stop me by asking the subtle question "Don't we want to save that for wrapping presents or something?", to which I had replied "Why would we wrap presents in this stuff!" This is what happens when my need to declutter gets in the way of my creative thinking. Good thing Joe is so adaptable! :)