Category Archives: birds

Gardening weather





Although we’re still in moderate drought conditions, we’ve entered a rainy period, which has motivated me to get all the gardens refurbished and planted for the first time in three years.  Now that the chickens are at work clearing out all the weeds and pest insects, I’ve got a clean slate to work with.




For the most part, the chickens are rather helpful. Some of the garden frames had been partially buried and were riddled with ants and termites. Once exposed, the girls went to town cleaning them up. In other instances, they can be trouble as they love freshly turned dirt. This garden in particular needed to have its weed barrier dug out and reinstalled. As soon as they saw me turn some dirt, the girls came to “help” doing their best to fill my trench back in before I was done.




Once the gardens are refurbished, I spread a fresh layer of compost then add the netting. The netting is crucial because the hens are so curious, and convinced that everything I do will yield food. One evening I tried to weed one of the gardens while the chickens were around and soon found myself accompanied by eight or nine of them who thought the soil needed some extra scratching. Trying to get them out again was like herding cats.





My other garden assistants, the bees are enjoying the first locust flowers. These trees, purchased from the State Forestry Department as tiny saplings, are finally suckering like crazy. This may sound like a bad thing, but Black Locust is a nitrogen fixing tree, and the perfect companion plant for my other fruit trees.




Speaking of fruit trees, this is the first year that my Saturn Peach has a sizable crop. I’m hoping I’ll finally get to taste one this year.


It’s been a year!

It’s hard to believe I’ve had the chickens a year now. They went from tiny balls of fluff to elegant (in some cases) egg-laying machines, with their own quirks and personalities.

They spend a lot of their time foraging in the fallen leaves, trimming the grass, eating what bugs, and even snakes, they find. They get a little cranky on days that I don’t let them out of the garden yard, but since dogs and chickens can’t mix, they have to take turns.

Sadly Osiris, the rooster, became a 4 pound roast around Halloween.  He had attacked me a couple of times, sneak attacks when I was checking for eggs, but he was also favoring certain hens and keeping others from the feeder.  That’s when I lost patience.

My sweet Willow also died very suddenly, we believe from a hepatic lesion due to her being really too fat.  It was just as all the birds were starting to lay eggs, and the extra strain was too much for her. Now I’m down to 12 egg-laying birds which was my plan all along.

Speaking of eggs, the girls are now at full production, roughly 300 eggs a month. I’ve been selling my surplus, which covers their food costs. My grocery bills have gone down a little with this ready source of protein, and they’ve done a bang-up job clearing out the weeds and pest insects from the garden area. All in all they are more than paying their way.

Equal Rivals

This Cardinal has been annoying us for the past few days, fighting with our bedroom window. I finally took a close look at him and noticed just how beat up he is. It looks like, from the loss of breast and flank feathers, that he’s been on the losing end of numerous scrape-ups with rival males. I’m guessing that with the reflection in the window, he’s finally found an equal rival. He’ll sing for a little while from the pear tree or the new fence, then fly down and smack against the window a few times. I’ve attached some mylar tape (it flaps and sparkles in the wind) to three of the window panes, but that just forced him to concentrate on the two other panes of glass. The next time I have energy, or am annoyed enough, I’ll put the tape on the other panes as well. Hopefully that will curb his testosterone induced insanity, or at least scare him away.

A month has gone by already?

My how time seems to fly [away]. Before Solstice, I managed to finish smoothing all the walls in the hallway and livingroom (right), except one. The finished product makes for a much brighter room during the day, and requires fewer lights at night. Shortly after the New Year, I got to work on the last wall and had it finished within a week (photo below).

Now I can officially say that there are no more cammo colors in all the public areas of the house. Instead, I chose a palette of fall grass colors, that I think are beautiful, bright and warm.

After I finished the renovations, I headed to Texas for six days, on shorter notice than Peter would have liked, to chase some rare birds in the Rio Grande Valley.

The bird search was very successful. I found all the but two of the reported rare birds, adding 5 to my life list of birds and 15 to my North American list. I had a fantastic day in Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, where I found a Groove-billed Ani, and a lot of incredible butterflies, including this Mexican Bluewing.

After my trip to Texas, I continued the Bermuda grass battle, weeding the rhubarb bed and digging a trench around my gardens to install the weed barrier.

In my spare time I finished this quilt top. I’m having some friends over this week to help me baste it. It’s amazing what you can do with an hour here and an hour there. I’ve been wanting to make a new quilt for our bed for years now. The last one is almost 20 years old.

For my Birthday, we went to Albuquerque NM, the best place in North America to find all three Rosy-finch species. The exact location is the Sandia Crest House at 10700 feet atop the Sandia Crest. We got there between 8:30 and 9 AM to find the top in snowy clouds. You could barely see the lower feeder, but I got my first Black Rosy-finch there. I didn’t think I would see much more, as the parking lot was crowded with people getting ready for a snowshoe race.

So we moved to the upper parking lot and waited for the coffee shop to open at 9:30 AM. The sign was absolutely correct. We couldn’t set our car alarm.

When the coffee shop opened, we settled down at the table closest to the feeder with a cup of cocoa and waited. My patience paid off in spades when a flock of about 100 birds alighted on the porch to feed. All three species can be seen in this photo (if you know what to look for). I was elated and Peter decided that kind of birding was his cup of tea (or cocoa in this case).

The next morning I set out with my friend Rob to find another long sought bird, the Sage Sparrow. Luck was still with me. We located three of them and got wonderful views. When we returned to Rob’s house, where Peter had been enjoying some online time, I found out there was an ice storm headed South and was going to blanket almost the entire route we would drive the next day (Monday). We decided for caution’s sake, to leave New Mexico that afternoon, and drive straight home. We got in at 1:30AM on Monday.

When we awoke the next morning the ice was already starting to fall, earlier than expected. So we quickly suited up, and headed out to get the dogs from their various keepers. We were home by 11 AM, with ice still accumulating. During the night and all the next day, the precipitation turned to sleet. We ended up with a quarter inch of ice and an inch of sleet on the ground.

Temperatures quickly rebounded, but I’m still waiting for the last of the sleet to melt before I start planting my peas. Yes, I said planting peas in February. Believe it or not, Feb 1st is the earliest planting date for peas. My overwintering scallions and lettuce are doing well, too. It’s very different gardening in the South, compared to what I remember in Montreal growing up, or Illinois. Spring planting season is starting. It’s time to order seeds!