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Sunday, August 30, 2009


On the East Coast, in a warm incubator, there are rows of Faverolle chicken eggs, that have reached their 21st day - Hatching day! My four wee Faverolle girlie chicks are peeping in their shells. Each chick is summoning up the energy to use their 'egg tooth' and slowly rotate around to open their eggshell like the lid opened on a tin can.

Then, once the groggy, still pipping chics are dry, it's time to be sexed (oh how rude!) as rooster or pullet. Then my 4 girly chicks will be popped into a cardboard box and shipped USPO to sunny Fair Oaks to a throughly pet-starved woman. I'm going to be a Mommy.... er, Mother Hen... er, or something like that!

I recommend turning the sound OFF when viewing this busy chicklet.

A Happy Day for Claire, an Exhausting First Day for 'the Girls'

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I can Bird from my office, can you Ski in yours?

I’ve had loads of critters fly past my downtown office window: Peregrine Falcons, Sandhill Cranes, Cooper’s Hawks, bats, butterflies, and what not. It is a fact, I can’t even keep my rosey flowered Gloxinia or Geraniums on the windowsill because hummingbirds do not think 9 or 10 floors is too high to fly for a chance of nectar slurping. One of my favorite fly-bys are flying cigars, called White-throated Swifts.

Sixteen Swifts like flecks against the sky

Today my boss came into my cubicle, and when I swung around to speak to him I saw some 30 or 40 White-throated Swifts bulleting past my window. If there had been no glass between the birds and I, I could have netted one. So while I chatted with my supervisor I was hard pressed to get my eyes off the birdies - I felt like a cat at a goldfish bowl. Even my boss who doesn't get the 'birding' thing, commented on the birds. Myself, being a nature-nerd, corrected his identification of the birds as swallows - close but no cigar - flying cigars that is.

Then my boss left and I had a happy five minutes, enthralled, trying for a clear shot of one of birds with my dinky Canon sureshot – no such luck. Oh well, how many people can engage in their very favorite activity in their office without getting injured, fired, or arrested?

Swifts mirror each other's flight

Can just eek out the top bird's white collar

A bit far off, but nice silhouettes

Yes, not the best White-throated Swift shots, but my office windows are filthy and those birds fly like UFOs. Some day I'll get the perfect swift shot, just not today.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Spending the Afternoon with my 'Peeps'

Had a ball today. My friends Terry & Terry2 invited me me over to their place today in El Dorado Hills for dinner and to visit their animals; dogs, goats, wild turkeys and of course best of all, their horses. When I got there Terry greeted me at the front gate with Splash, a beautiful gelding Terry works with every day - the woman is enjoying her retirement! Splash is a paint, white, chestnut over his ears and crown so he's a 'Medicine Hat' horse - animals believed by Indians to be extra special animals. Splash is pretty special to me - he loves hugs & attention and happily, I need horses to hug sometimes so it's a win-win situation.

Splash & Terry2

For fun, we piled into the car and headed for the Feed Stores which can be infectious what with all the critter feed, pens, live animals... Oooo! Look at the baby chicks! Look at the widdle baby ducks! We are sooo very bad. We came home with 2 Rhode Island Red hen-chicks. I think Terry2 was feeling like she'd like some warm baby chicks and a future fresh egg supply like I'll have next month. So next thing you know, Xena the Warrior Chick, and tiny Queen Bodicia were in a box on my lap for their trip back to the ranch - and for starters - into the sink!

So! With two infant beaks to house and feed it was time to quick, build a chick nursery!

Terry2 wanted to know, if it's Kosher to use Duck tape on a Chick Pen?

The new chick nursery is ready - large & roomie

I was worried the bay-bays didn't know where things were so we put their bills into the water and Hallelujah! They were drinking water and when placed in their food dish, they started wolfing down their chick mash. Good girls!

Then it was time for a nap - they were rather
worn out from their trip home & their feeding lessons

While Xena and Bodicia peeped and slept it was time for the sucessful birdie Mamas to have their dinner. So while Terry2 got some incredible steaks on the grill, Terry and I went to the garden for a nice tour of the tomatoes, beans, lettuces and such in the garden. They have a wonderfully large garden, the kind that really can supply all their veggie needs.

Terry decided on Swiss Chard and Basil.

Dinner was delish, with locally raised beef, the chard and baked potatoes with fresh greens sprinkled on it - and Julia Child would have approved of the generous amounts of bud-duh!

Terry asked if I would like some Swiss Chard to take home, and I was eager for some. Next thing I knew I was taking home a HUMONGOUS Swiss Chard plant in a big ole terra cotta pot! Terry says as you cut leaves to eat, the chard ups it's growth to compensate. How convienient is that? So move over cucumbers, the Gulag Garden has a new tenant.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Recap on Wasp Nest and More Home STUFF

Had a student friend by the house today. Made a half day of it buying and installing gutter covers. Got the whole shebang finished, and I'm happy about it.

You know I love before/after photos - bear with me.

Before, open gutter...

After... covered gutter!

Ok, calm down now there Skippy. Sit down. I know the raw excitement of the before/after gutter photos overstimulated you. Breathe deeply. There - that's better.

Now, recall yesterday's bit about the Yellow Jackets that took over my little bird house. After dark I popped the entire bird cage into a plastic bag and in to the freezer (-1 degree). I honestly thought there would not be an ending to that story for at least a month or two.

Johan, the guy who did the gutter covers was nice enough to open the frozen bird house this morning - end result? A half dozen frozen Yellow Jackets and one VERY small mud nest cell. It was only an inch long, with a single tunnel. I was correct in my thinking yesterday, that the wasps only started their nest yesterday, and I took it down before they got much of a nest going. *WHEW!* My final comment on the wasp nest - I couldn't - wouldn't - have opened the thing myself for months. So thanks Johan for keeping the wasp saga from dragging on for ages.

There are tons of Wasp nests under the eves of my house, and the one below is still hanging and there no wasps in it any longer - no idea why. It is NOT the ensy one in the bird house, and it is a paper wasp nest. Isn't it a beaut? Only about 4 inches across.

For whatever reason, these sorts of honey coned paper wasp nests creep me out!

Honestly, honeycombs have made me feel creepy since I was a tiny kid - I've no idea why. I recall my Aunt Verona asking me why I was squicked by such things and I told her 'the holes make me all squidgey'.

Well, fifty years later, word up - the damn things still do!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's Nature's Way

Sanctioned Visitor to Gulag Garden

Here's my little wren/titmouse nesting box, which has hung unused for about four or five years now. I must say it's decorativeness pleases me, if not the local House Wrens. Late this afternoon I noticed that Yellow Jacket Wasps are also pleased with the properly wasp-sized condo. Hum... free rent even.

Unsanctioned Yellow-Jackets buzzed in and out all afternoon

I'm usually don't flip over such natural occurances but you have to forgive me. Normally the light rail bit of my home commute is just shy of 20 minutes; today it was more than an hour. Today was HOT, needless to say, as is usual on such days, the light rail was stalled, the air conditioning was out and the cars were crowded with pissy commuters. So when I got home and collapsed on the couch and noticed the wasp parade just outside my window - I felt a bit irate.

Now... thing is, I've got a wasp-nest bomber, but.... But being hot and feeling cranky, I thought up something... evil... something deserved by a species that has stung me numerous times for NO good reason. Ever been stung by a Yellow Jacket? Nasty affair.

I was about to dig up the wasp-bomb. I hesitated as did not want wasp poison all over my bird house. And what if there is a papery wasp-nest in there? Ugh! A mess. So, one giant BIG-arse plastic bag, and giant BIG-arse freezer later...

More on this chilly, chiling experiment another day.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Keeping Up with the Hatfields & the McCoys

In my futile attempt to keep my home from falling down around me, I try for at least one house maintenance project a year. I despise having to dig up a new contractor/workman. Hiring feels like tossing out bait and praying a kindly woodland deer appears, as opposed to a rampaging rabid wolf that calls you Madame, compliments the decor then effs up your project and ravages your bank account. So this past month I hired a new contractor (in retrospect, half wolf/half deer) and rehired a tried and true tree trimmer of the Bambi persuasion.

First off there was a gutters issue. Way back in 1997 when my house exterior was painted, my gutters took a major thumping. The painter, Paul loved painting, but didn't love messing with gutters, so in several spots he just removed them, then spent hours telling me how useless gutters were. Flash forward to 2007, when my gutterless back porch slowly fell to bits due to water damage. Thank you for the b'jillion $ repair job Paul. Ok, it was my fault, I should have stuck to my guns and made him put the gutters back PROPERLY, not half-arssed in some spots or not at all in others.

Missing Section of Guttering

Armed with an estimate, neither too high nor too low, I went with it. The replacements took one Friday and the end result was old rust pitted gutters gone, new vinyl (uncovered) gutters. Hurrah!

Voila! New Back Porch Gutter

Emboldened by the gutter success, I opted for some tree trimming with Santos Tree Service, that did a good job some 6 years ago. Since last time my HUMONGOUS front yard Ash tree grew right back over the roof and even sent out scout limbs to touch the fireplace chimney. I had NO fireplace fires this past winter, which is the first time that's happened since I moved into this house. Why? I thought I was just too lazy or, scoff if you must, but MAYBE was the great Earth Mother squelching the idea of a fire in my head so wouldn't burnt my house down, reducing it to rubble. Eh? Eh? You buying that explanation? OK, me neither, but it was a good coincidence in any case.

The Chimney: an Insurance Claim Waiting to Happen

Proof, my insurance agent sleeps better these days.

I also wanted the Italian Cypress on the Northeast corner of the house gone - it leaned on the house and gutters and harbors heaven only knows what kind of vermin. I signed the Italian Cypress' death warrent. Bwah, ha, ha, ha, ha!

The Cypress was not more than 2 feet higher
than the roof when I moved in

Arrivederci Italian Cypress!

A motley crowd of back yard invaders is shown below, shortly before their removal. What a mess! The blasted birdy-planted privet took over the corner, shading out my Toyon shrub - a native plant with red Autumn berries. Poor Toyon! It was hunched over, looking miserable, whining "the Privet is picking on me!"

In the first photo, taken during the work, ravaging hoards of volunteer climbing rose shrubs are already pulled out. Clearing the back fence will leave room for the new chicken hutch that will be plump full of pullets by October.

The Privet (tall, hoary bit in corner) is an evil, birdie planted Garden HORROR!

The poor leaning Toyon blinks: The corner is hers and hers alone!

Roto-tilling the last bits of rose roots

So, that is it for this round of home improvements - until next week anyway. Meanwhile, the kitchen is still in transition (has been since DECEMBER!). I'm pondering what the heck to do to the front yard which is looking rather Dogpatch-ish. We shall see...