True stories of a small flock of remarkable individuals -- and other critters.

Monday, August 27, 2012


You know how it is. You leave town for a weekend and when you return,
a rogue seed has sprouted to produce a 20-foot gourd vine that engulfs a good chunk of the yard.

But this one looks great, so I tell people I planned it that way.

When a giant Queen Anne's Lace planted itself in my perennial bed a few years ago, I was elated. I've always loved the look of this weed, and it is a favorite food of the yellow swallowtail caterpillar. 
So I encouraged it. But there's a reason they call this plant a weed. The roots poison the soil, killing all the other plants around it.   It took me two years to eradicate it in the garden, but I did scatter its seeds at the edge of the yard where nothing much grows anyway.  

And it looks great in its new weed patch.

For years I've been planting milkweed seeds in my garden with no luck-- 
until this year.
Now I have a patch of fifteen or twenty healthy stalks. Their flowers are surprisingly fragrant, and they lured the monarch butterflies to my garden, which was my secret plan. 

When this one arrived, I watched her.
When  she left, I took a close look.
Her egg would take eight days to hatch. I worried that something that small would have little chance of surviving. After eight days I hunted for the hatchling with no luck.  Weeks passed without a sighting. 

And this week:

Other success stories on the milkweed:
This tussock caterpillar.

Just like some folks who eat their corn-on-the-cob in a spiral pattern instead of in a row, 

these caterpillars have their own styles. 

The tussock caterpillar starts at the stem and chews down one side of the leaf,
while the monarch prefers to take a big chunk out of each tip.

So the milkweed patch is looking rather mangled now, but it sure is supporting a lot of life.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
Most of my ladies have been pretty laid back during this hot sultry summer. 

Lucy is satisfied to lie around and nibble the grass.

Daisy, however, is never satisfied. She's always hungry, and always hunting.

But I don't have to worry about her eating my milkweed caterpillars.
The hens turn their beaks up at anything with black and yellow stripes, and they certainly don't want a mouthful of tussock-hair. 
Daisy is hunting for something else.

See it?  
A toad. 

This has been a very toady year in my garden.

I love my toads.

I hate to watch Daisy hunt.
But gardens are all about life and death.

And adventure.

And naps. 

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

For most of the summer, my Fern has been feeling a bit off.
She's a two-year-old Ameraucana. 

Back in June, she began to molt. 

Now, the end of August, Fern's still losing and growing feathers. Molts can take a lot out of a bird, and this is the longest molt I've ever seen.

Fern now weighs about as much as a sparrow. Her eyes are dull and she does everything in slow-motion. She spends a lot of time hiding.
She does like to hang out with Lucy who is compassionate and goes nowhere fast.

Pigeon often keeps watch over Fern as well. But Fern is still going downhill.

Chicken-friends and Facebook friends have offered lots of support and advice for my little Ameraucana. Terry Golson of suggested that the molt might be a symptom rather than a cause of whatever ails Fern.  
That's an interesting way of looking at it. 
I'm certainly learning a lot about chickens from friends and research. 

I'll do my best to make Fern well. 
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

But.... gardens are all about life and death. 

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Meet the New Guy!

Allow me to introduce

Angel is Grandma Nancy's dog. He has recently moved in with us because Grandma needs a break from dog-walking duties these days. 

Marky likes Angel. 
Especially because Angel came with all this loot.

But Marky seems befuddled by his new little buddy. 
Is he really a dog?

I mean, can he bark like this?

Can he pull a tree up by its roots?

Can he catch a snowball with his bare fangs?

Can he burn rubber?

Can he smell this putrid?

Apparently not all dogs are descendants of the bold and mysterious wolf.

We've actually traced Angel's DNA

to this. 

Don't get me wrong. Marky, like most dogs, has suffered cuteness at times. 

He has a girl, Sarah. And, well, sometimes cute happens.

But for the most part he's a serious chicken-protecting dude. 

At first, Angel was curious about the ladies. 
But on closer inspection,he found that they are bigger than he is, and pretty darn scary.

So he prefers to stick to the things he does best:
Keeping me company and 

looking cute.