Wuzza Snake

Wuzza Snake Aug 2016

Red on yellow, kill a fellow – Red on black, friend of Jack

This Wuzza Snake. Now it’s a dead Coral Snake with no head. It’s the second Coral Snake we’ve seen. The first one was caught and killed three years ago by Buster, our late sweet boxer mix and Farm Dog.

When Buster saw a black snake, he had a very distinctive bark. We knew he had found another snake. And the snakes took the hint and scooted away.

When he saw the coral snake, he didn’t bark. He grabbed the snake, shook it, threw it down, picked it up, and shook it again and again. He was evidently not a fan of coral snakes.

We just happened to have a vet appointment for our old guy Buster that day for a check up. When we told the vet about his encounter with the Coral Snake, she said, “Tell him he shouldn’t be doing that!” We gravely nodded in agreement even though we were very proud of our Farm Protector. He was a good dog.

Man almost stepped on this snake. He called for a shovel and watched the snake while I dashed – as well as an old lady can dash – for a nice sharp shovel that resulted in the demise of the snake.

There’s a storm brewing in the Gulf. I think the wildlife is searching for higher ground in anticipation of the impending weather.

Posted in Country Life | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Roasting Peppers

Roasting peppers Aug 2016

I picked almost 3 pounds of beautiful Anaheim peppers in our garden today. The Anaheim chili pepper originated from New Mexico chile seeds that were planted in the Anaheim, California area in 1894. That must be why roasting Anaheim peppers in Florida smells like late summer in New Mexico. Love the smell of roasting peppers!

Posted in Country Life | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Dropping By for Breakfast

0604:080916:72F:0000:CAMERA1:2E[086:0796]G[056:0x0076]

The neighborhood deer discovered our North Forty where we have high bush blueberries, rabbit eye blueberries, two different varieties of persimmon trees, and peach trees. The tender leaves on our newest peach trees are evidently their very favorite because they  have been ignoring the blueberries and other fruit trees completely.  The smallest peach tree was almost completely stripped of leaves. I do enjoy my evening cup of peach tea, and I did just can 15 pints of peach jam, so I guess I can’t really blame the deer for having a preference for peaches.

If you look behind the deer, you will see our new Peach Tree Corrals. Each tree has its own personal corral. It appears our doe is headed towards the yummy invasive tangle-foot vine that is also a deer delicacy. Good girl!

Posted in Country Life | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Farm Aromatherapy

Peach jam Aug 2016.jpg

The house is filled with the smell of peaches. When I lean over the stove to look into the pot, I get the added bonus of a peach-infused facial.

According to the National Hurricane Center, there is a “disturbance” in The Gulf just to the west of us. According to the snoozing dogs, there is a low weather system nearby. According to the chickens who shake their feathers when they go back under the shelter of their coops, it is raining.  According to me, a gray rainy day is the best day of all to make jam and enjoy the Farm Aromatherapy.

 

 

Posted in Country Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sadie On Patrol

Sadie has been on the farm almost six months. She takes being a Farm Dog seriously. Our coops and runs are well-secured with half-inch hardware cloth, but our Farm Guardian Dogs are our best security. Sadie does her rounds every night before bed and frequently asks to go out early to patrol the chicken coops. We installed a game camera to see what’s going on after dark and before dawn.

Here is Sadie last week walking between the two groups of chicken coops and runs, on patrol early in the morning. She is walking away from the camera, looking at the West Coop run. The North Coop is on her left.

sadie on rounds 0507hrs 7-22-16

Last night, the camera caught what she has been watching for.

 

fox1-7-28-16

fox2-7-28-16

fox3-7-28-16

It looks like we have a fox that is very interested in the chicken coops. You can see it came past the North Coop, headed away from the camera, and was looking towards the West Coop. Maybe the West Coop rooster, Baymax, was letting the neighborhood know there was a fox on the prowl.

Posted in Country Life | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Baby Chicks Growing Up 2016

Baby Princesses with Princesses watchingBaby princesses June 2016 8 weeks old

Joanna’s Babies with Joanna and the South Coop watching
Joannas babies June 2016 8 weeks

The first week in May, we picked up 23 one-day-old baby chicks at the Post Office. 15 of them are Ameraucana chicks, but we call them the Baby Princesses. 8 of them are Buff Orpingtons, and we call them Joanna’s Babies.

When the baby chicks arrived, we had six broody hens who had been broody for two to six weeks. One of them was Joanna who hatched 10 eggs last year and raised the baby chicks. The other five were Cuckoo Marans. None of the Marans had raised baby chicks, but they were very, very broody.

We took Joanna one of the Buff Orpington chicks after the babies had had a chance to eat and drink to recover from their overnight journey to our farm. They had been at our farm for four hours. We placed the baby chick close to Joanna, and she looked at it and the baby looked at her. Beak to beak. Then Joanna reached out with her wing and swept that baby under her. We took her two more, and she swept them in. And then three more. As we put the last two down by her, one ran to snuggle under as she swept the other in.

We were very smug about our success with matching babies to a mama. We took a baby chick to one of the Marans – I won’t tell you which one but just be aware that Rhoda is not mama material – who gave the baby chick such a wicked peck on the head that it sent the chick reeling. We waited a bit then tried another Marans, Mary. As we were moving her towards the Maternity Suite, she heard the baby chicks peeping and she panicked. She let out a loud DANGER-DANGER cry that ended up setting off the entire chicken yard. 45 squawking chickens. Definitely a No Go. After everyone settled down, we tried a third Marans, Chloe. This time we took the baby chick to her so it wouldn’t sound so overwhelming with 15 peeping chicks. We sat the baby chick down close to her and she flew out over my head and past me, almost knocking me over, with a terrified squawk. We didn’t even try the other two broody hens. It was getting close to the end of the day. We decided we’d just watch Joanna and raise our 15 babies the same way she raised hers.

It didn’t exactly work out like that, though. Joanna took her babies outside for a walk around the run when they were three days old. We weren’t that brave. We took our babies out of the brooder and the coop to explore their run after a week. Or so.

Joanna took her babies out to free range when they were three weeks old. Our babies haven’t been out to free range yet. They are outside all day in their run, but we haven’t gotten up the nerve to let them out to explore the big wide world called The Farm. Joanna has much better control over her babies than we do over ours.

All the babies are on their own now. Joanna moved back to the South Coop and started laying eggs again. Malfoy, the South Coop rooster, welcomed her back, so there was no drama with reestablishing herself in the pecking order. Joanna’s babies are in the North Coop and all the South Coop chickens can see them through the hardware cloth. In fact, Joanna keeps a pretty close eye on the babies.

The princess babies have part of the Castle for their home. They are separated from the Princesses in the Castle by a wall of hardware cloth. There are two Castle runs – one small for the babies and one large for the Princesses, but the runs are also separated by hardware cloth. The Princesses have been given visiting hours in the princess babies’ run several times with no drama. The Princesses keep a close eye on the princess babies. I’m not sure if it is concern, curiosity, or just watching to see if they get any treats.

And we watch. And we learn.

 

Posted in Country Life | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Third Year – Gardening

Garden herbs and shade June 2016

Our first year of gardening in Florida was very organized. I documented the number and type of each plant and seed on every row. We had 14 rows running East and West. It was a beautifully planned garden that was overtaken by weeds, nematodes, and squirrels.

Our second year of gardening was spent ridding the garden of nematodes by sterilizing the soil. We covered the garden with the prescribed white plastic.  While we were waiting for the nematodes to become sterilized or die out from starvation – whatever the plastic was supposed to do – we attended some gardening classes held by the Extension Service people in surrounding counties.

We attended a two-day class in Baker County that talked about Aluminet® shade cloth that allows sunlight to reach the plants but protects them from the intense heat of the sun. We were told that gardening in Florida is not ‘normal’ gardening. The Florida growing season is essentially over in May because of the intense heat and humidity in June, July, August and even September. The Extension Service had been testing shade cloth through the summer with great success in growing bell peppers.

We attended a week long class in Marion County that discussed raised garden beds, crop rotation, and organic gardening. The different lessons were taught by Master Gardeners, and they were brilliant. We attended another class where a Master Gardener demonstrated planting potatoes in a bucket.

Meanwhile, we continued our battle with squirrels who had declared all our plants, even our flowers, as buffet-worthy.  We realized we’d never be able to train all the squirrels to leave our herbs, vegetables, and flowers alone. We did need the pollinators to be able to get to our herbs and vegetables, so we decided to put our plants in cages covered with chicken wire.

Our third year of gardening is putting everything we’ve learned together. We have four rows running North and South. Each row has a type of crop – root, leafy, flowering (cucumber, tomato, pepper), and beans. Next year all the crop types will move over a row. We’ve sprayed neem oil for spider mites, but all the other pests have been removed by hand. And crushed. Organic gardeners are sometimes quite primitive in their plant protection methods. It’s not for the squeamish.

Each row is covered by a frame of PVC pipe covered with chicken wire. Access to the plants requires lifting up a panel after moving the blocks of wood that serve as locks on each end. So far, the squirrels have not managed to break in. And the shade cloth covers the four 16-foot rows.

The herbs are all in a chicken wire-covered structure that we brilliantly named Herb’s Garden. We had excess tomato plants, so we put them in Home Depot Homer’s Buckets. We planted potatoes in four 55 gallon food-grade barrels that we had somehow acquired over the years.

All the structures you see – the raised beds, the vegetable cages, Herb’s Garden, the shade cloth frame – were built by my very talented husband. Here’s to a man who asks “What’s my next project?” More romantic words could never be spoken!

Our garden results so far have far exceeded the first two years.  We’ve harvested 13 pounds of cucumbers and 8 pounds of beans in the past few weeks. The tomatoes and peppers look promising. It’s a good thing I love to can!

 

Posted in Country Life | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments