Gardening

My nemesis…

Nemesis…defined as “a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent”

And she knows this…see the look of shame and apology.  It’s because she loves me.  She doesn’t love me enough, however.  She’s dedicated to foiling my every move.  Our battleground?

Our battleground is any area I attempt to cultivate as a garden bed, be it floral or vegetable, and the accompanying accessories.  The weapon? Her pearly whites. Her chompers. Teeth!

It’s April the 11th.  I’ve been ready to plant for weeks, but no…I’m stalked by this evildoer of a mutt.  Let me recount the casualty list to date:  $300+ dollars worth of drip irrigation,  a waterhose (including the fitting that attached it to the spout), the styrofoam covers off the trampoline, two dessert sage bushes (established), a satellite wire, the inputs to our air conditioning unit, an aloe vera plant and numerous small plastic containers.

This teething rascal is relentless!  But it’s April people and I have no choice! I had to plant!  I’m missing the window of opportunity for Texas!  It will be 100+ degrees in a couple of months.  So I planted

A few tomatoes, zucchini, bell pepper, and I wrapped it all in ragged leftover chicken wire.  And it seems to be working…so far….but I haven’t replaced the drip line yet.  I’m still having to water.  By hand.  Daily.  So, I found this

Which is a wireless fence system purported to accomplish this

My nemesis and I have a date with destiny this weekend.  And my hubbie, a date with drip irrigation!

Crochet · General · I'm loving this!

I’m loving this!

Love, love, love it!  What an extraordinary idea.  I love the simplicity.  My husband spotted this on Pinterest, and knew I’d like it.

I had to explore further and found Susan’s lovely site at Juniper Moon Farm.   This tutorial for recycling yarn scraps for nesting materials has been pinned and re-pinned.  It was the first time I had seen it, however, and I’m so enthralled that I must share.

Chicken Mission

Cedar Shavings…Toxic or Terrific?

Last week, I wrote about my toxic cedar shaving scare with the Hogwarts’ Four.  I wanted to send out a quick addendum to that post.  The Texas A&M folks (and my county extension agent) were lighting fast in getting back with me and here’s their take on cedar shavings:

You are correct that the pine shavings will have better absorption than the cedar.  I don’t know of any research on the subject and have asked around and no one else has either. I have heard the same “rumor” there is concern about the fumes released by cedar shavings being toxic, especially to young chicks in enclosed spaces, causing respiratory issues.  Again I haven’t seen any evidence of this in the literature.  Pine is generally used because it is cheaper.”

So I’m going to go out on a limb with this.  Unless your chickens are babies, or confined in an area with insufficient ventilation, it’s not the end of the world if cedar shavings are utilized.  As for me, they had me at “pine is cheaper.”

Chicken Mission

Learning and thriving…

Chickens are definitely a new learning curve for me.  So naturally, I’ve done what I always do-I read and research extensively, then I point my toes and leap.  And, per the usual, there’s always, always always (!) an early misstep.  The good news is, the chickens are alive and well.  The bad news is, for a few days there, it seemed as though I had inadvertently put their health in jeopardy. The culprit?

The common Red Cedar tree.  You see, they take these trees, and make stuff with them.  One of the many products available made from red cedar are cedar shavings.  These are manufactured and packaged for use with small animals.  I found them at a bargain while readying my chicken coop for the ladies, and thought, this is a great idea.  The cedar will help with the chicken smell (ewww) and should have some anti-bug properties to boot.

Fast forward to Thursday of last week.  I’m bleary eyed, reading an article on the deep litter method before going to bed for the evening. About two thirds of the way through the article ( frankly I was almost asleep) I read the following words “….cedar shavings are toxic to chickens and should never be used.”   Bleepity, bleep, bleep!! I said to myself, and for the next hour and a half, I scoured the internet for more information.

The bottom line as far as my research took me, is that there is no bottom line.  A lot of people are convinced cedar is toxic to chickens (as well as other small animals).  It’s discussed in chicken forums across the web that red cedar’s aromatic properties can actually create respiratory issues for the birds and in fact, can kill them.  I couldn’t find any conclusive (and by that I mean cited, scientific, etc) point of reference that gave me the 411 on cedar’s effects on chickens.  On top of which, there are folks out there who say they’ve used cedar shavings as part of their bedding mix for years and had no problems.

What did I do?  Well, my philosophy is this:  If there’s a chance something might kill your chickens, and you don’t want your chickens to die, then quit doing the thing that might kill them.  So I spent the better part of an incredible, beautiful Saturday morning mucking out a chicken coop.

What did I replace the cedar with?  Well, I know you’ll find it hard to believe, but for every bedding material available and used, there’s someone who’s going to say it’s no good for your chickens.  I found folks who think pine shavings are toxic, and then there are folks who use pine religiously.  Some folks are sold on hay, and some folks say it tends to mold and is a mess to try to compost.  So, I used pine shavings and threw some hay on top  and in the nesting boxes for good measure.  I love these chickens, but I don’t see any backyard chicken death epidemics and people are using these materials left and right.

So today, I reached out to my county extension office and asked them.  The agri-extension representative said,

“I can’t speak with authority about cedar shavings, but will try to find out. I do know that pine shavings and/or rice hulls are the preferred bedding materials for the poultry industry. I believe this is for the absorption value of these materials. I will forward your question to someone in the poultry department at TAMU and see what they say.”

TAMU is Texas A&M University, and as soon as I know, I will let you guys know.

So at least for the time being, the Hogwarts quartet are thriving.  And me? I’m still learning…

General

Catch and Release

Last week was Spring Break for my kiddos.  We didn’t plan a trip or family vacation, but we did a little “stay-cationing”. We were looking for something to do on Friday and decided to check out the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.  Yes, I know, sexy right?  Not so much, but it was actually pretty cool.  I had expected a freshwater aquarium. I had heard that there was a pond where this kids could fish, but I didn’t realize that they had developed a small wetlands trail and preserve.

Or that they encourage wild life habitat as part of the preserve

It was beautiful and unexpected. And even though I did expect lots and lots of catfish.  I don’t know that I was prepared for these guys!

or these

You could buy fish food from a small vending machine for a quarter and it created quite the frenzy.  I had to coax the kids to go back over after they got splashed by some pretty fishy fish water. You actually did find yourself a little worried about the probability of fish obesity and the heart-health implications of the constant food….

But then when you get down to brass tacks, it’s really all about activities that, although not great for fish well-being, are all cosmic reminders of the interspecies food chain…Right?….Maybe not.

This was an awesome little “catch and release” pond situated in the middle of the center. Apparently, the fish were biting right up until we dropped our lines in the water… 🙂  Note to self: One has to catch in order to release.

Have a great weekend! Check out some of the natural beauty that may be around the corner in your neck of the woods.

Chicken Mission

Hey Chicks, Come out and Play!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I brought the Hogwarts’ four home.  So day one, I donned rubber boots and jetted out to the chicken coop to visit. What can I say? I was excited.  Upon arrival, I called out to them, clucked, cajoled…no chickens.  So I rationalized, hey, maybe they’re sleeping in.  Who knows right?  New place, long drive home, I’ll give them some time.  So I worked around the yard.  I have fire ants in my raised garden beds and I had some eradicating to do anyway.  Basically, I just wanted to give them space.  An hour or so later, back to the coop I went.  No chickens.  I called out to them softly, coaxing, finally decided I’d take a load off and wait them out.  So I opened the door of the coop and had a seat.  Once sitting, this is what I saw.

These ladies were not coming out. Only one of them was even remotely interested.  So I began talking.  I threw out a few leafy greens.  I waited. Finally, Jenny Weasley came through!

I knew I loved that girl! Finally, somebody was going to come out and play.Yo, Jenny what’s up? Hey girl…

Hey Lucy, where did you come from?

Wizard?  I didn’t see you were here too…

Pixie?  Back off a little babe…

Jenny, wait! Where are you going? Don’t go!

Hmmm…maybe we should just give them a little more space…