Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lost and Found

As I do obsessively all the time, I was taking a head count of the chickens the other day. I came up with 6, not 7 as it should be. With two separate runs and the inside of the coop, it took me awhile to confirm that there were definitely only 6 chickens in the yard.

I looked everywhere I could think. There wasn't any obvious signs of distress or carnage that would have been there had it been a hawk strike. It had just vanished.

So I thought.

Later in the day, determined not to lose yet another chicken, I had a better look around. I was aware that they had been going under the coop on one end for shade or escape from the rooster. So I knelt down as best I could to see if it was under the coop. The coop is on a slight slope, so the space underneath is wedge shaped. I had been looking on the higher end, thinking the lower end would be too low for a chicken.

Well, I was wrong. Tucked in the lowest section was the missing hen. I got a stick and eventually encouraged her out. Then I discovered FOUR eggs under there as well. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I knew I didn't want her laying eggs under the coop. Or if she was possibly a broody hen, I didn't want chicks hatching under there, too.

I stacked up the old boards around the gap, yet again, and will be more watchful in future.

The height under the coop is about 4 inches where the chicken was hiding.

The lost chicken

Old boards stacked up to prevent the chickens getting under the coop.

One of the eggs cracked as I was getting them out.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Growing Chicks

The baby chicks have grown so much. They are almost big enough to move outside. The plan is to put them for awhile in our old small coop. It's not recommended to put them straight in with the other grown chickens.

Here they are at one week: 

And at two weeks old

And then at four weeks old

Friday, May 23, 2014


It's been awhile since I shared any photos of our beautiful sunsets. You probably get tired of seeing them but I doubt we ever will. These were taken over several months so you can see how the sunsets have moved across the horizon.

November 1, 2013, 6:34 pm CST

November 16, 2013, 5:33 pm CST

January 10, 2014, 5:49 pm CST

January 16, 2014, 5:55 pm CST - from inside

January 16, 2014, 5:52 pm CST

January 16, 2014, 5:56 pm CST

February 27, 2014, 6:20 pm CST

February 27, 2014, 6:20 pm CST

March 17, 2014, 7:41 pm CST

April 14, 2014, 7:37 pm CST

April 28, 2014, 7:54 pm CST

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Baby Gifts

I've been knitting again. Bear with me while I indulge myself showing you a few photos.

For the first baby shower I just made a simple hat because I took other presents. This is a cute pattern from Purlbee called Laura's Loop Garter Ear Flap Hat. You can find the pattern here. It's only one of many cute patterns on this site. The yarn used was called Drops Merino, which is a soft 100% Merino DK wool. I used sizes 7 and 8 double pointed needles. It took me a couple of hours to make this, in the evenings watching TV.

Laura's Loop Garter Ear Flap Hat in Drops Merino

Then for the next baby shower, I made a couple of things.

The cardigan is a pattern called Puerperium Cardigan and is designed for a newborn baby. It is quite small, doesn't use much yarn, and is quick to knit. You can search for it on if you're interested. I modified the pattern slightly by shifting the opening over a few stitches. I used Debbie Bliss Rialto DK 100% Merino wool, similar to the previous hat. I love this yarn because it's so soft and washable, perfect for baby clothes. 

The hat is from a pattern called Preemie Fruit Orchard Hat by Lullaby Lamb handed down to me by my knitting friend in Florida. I used the same yarn as the previous hat. 

After finishing the cardigan and hat I thought the set needed some socks to round out the ensemble. So I found a pair in my finished stash. The sock pattern is called Sockotta by Plymouth Yarn Design Studio and came from my same friend. The yarn is a fingering weight yarn, most likely a Red Heart wool nylon blend.

Knitted baby cardigan, hat and socks

The Puerperium cardigan in Debbie Bliss Merino

The cardigan is embellished with a crocheted flower and knitted leaf.

I chose to use matching buttons.

I stitched a heart shape out of felt with "handmade" just so they'd know it didn't come from China.

The stitching created another heart shape on the back

The Preemie Fruit Orchard Hat in Drops Merino

I embellished the hat with another crocheted flower and knitted leaf.

The Sockotta sock from my stash

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Deer Fawn

It's not unusual that Dog barks at things outside. Sometimes it's a passing truck. Sometimes it's nothing we can see.

The other morning she kept barking so long that I eventually went out to see what she was barking at. She was having a bit of a stand-off with a deer who had come closer than usual to the house.

That was unusual. After watching the confrontation awhile, it seemed the deer wasn't scared of Dog and even advanced toward Dog a few times with a snort. I'd never seen or heard that before. I guessed she was in a protective mode.

Later that morning, seemingly unrelated, Guv'nor found a fawn out in the open field near the gate with the weather station. Being the newbies that we are, he brought it up to the house. We were thinking that it was lost from the mother who had been near the house earlier.

After a few texts to friends and family and searching on the internet, we discovered we had done all the wrong things. So we took it back to the spot out in the field and hoped the mother would return for it. Later when we checked, it was gone. So we're hoping it was reunited with the mother.

Just in case you were wondering what you should do, here are a few guidelines. The following quote is taken from the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.
Abandoned deer fawns: In Texas, it is very common for people to encounter seemingly orphaned or abandoned deer. Mother deer typically leave their fawns bedded down while they are away foraging. If the fawn is not crying, is not covered with fire ants, the eyes are not swollen and there are no visible wounds, do not handle or disturb it. Your presence will only cause unnecessary stress for the fawn. 
A recent study found that 40% or more of the deer fawns referred to TPWD were not orphans or injured, but "kidnapped" from their mothers. Typically these incidents were well-meaning but misguided attempts to "save" seemingly abandoned fawns.
We will know better next time.

At first the deer was near the front of the house.

She gradually moved to the side of the house, drawing Dog away from the fawn.

Guv'nor carried the little fawn up to the house.

The fawn looked newborn and had big white spots.

It had such spindly legs and could barely stand.

I took it back to the field and found a place where it looked like they had been.

The spot was pretty close to the house.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Weather Station

Guv'nor has a new toy. So I asked him to explain it because he's much better at that than I am.

We wanted our own local weather data because no accurate data for our local area is available. The conditions on our property can vary greatly from the nearest detailed dataset for the nearest city. Our goal is to assess the suitability for various fruit species, for a wind turbine, and to maintain soil and plant moisture levels as efficiently as possible. 

The weather station collects data every 10 seconds and records averages over 30 minute increments.

A solar panel powers a wireless transmission of the data over a 400 ft. distance to a receiver connected to a laptop. All the data is automatically entered into a database from which important agricultural data can be calculated (eg. chill hours = the annual number of hours below 40F,  a critical measure for fruits such as peaches).

At the top of the mounting pole, wind speed is measured by an anemometer (the spinning cups and directional fin). It captures average speeds, gusts and prevailing direction.

Below is a rain gauge (black) which houses a tilting collector that measures 0.01 inch increments of rainfall and allows a rain rate per hour to be measured (a brief storm on May 8 produced a 6 inches/hour rate for 5 minutes).

Below that is the radiation shield (white) which houses the temperature and humidity sensors.

The system provides for an additional 7 sets of sensors to be added in different locations on our property as desired, including soil and leaf moisture sensors.

The station is mounted on a aluminum pole in an open area near a gate to one of the pastures.

The anemometer (the spinning cups and directional fin) is at the top left.

The black upside down bucket is the section that collects rain.

The white box on the side is the solar panel.

Here is a screen shot of the data we receive.

This is the current reading.

The data is organized automatically into monthly readings.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Good Riddance

We finally took care of a problem we have been having with the chickens. Much overdue.

We were down to eight chickens: two roosters with six laying hens. Several months ago we lost two laying hens to separate attacks by a hawk. I have since arranged the fencing into narrow runs to hopefully discourage and confuse the hawks.

According to my chicken book, "If you want to be sure all the eggs are fertile, one cock can service from eight to twelve hens." Since we had double the males with half the females, according to that ratio, the poor girls were being severely over-serviced. It gradually developed into a more serious problem with severe loss of feathers on the neck and back and gashes on the sides of the girls. In the words of my book, they were showing signs of poor management and severe stress. Shame on me.

It would have been manageable if the boys had chosen out a couple of girls to be their chosen ones, and left the others alone. But it was as if the boys were trying to prove to each other how many girls they could service each day, sometimes multiple times by each other. Those poor girls. The last straw was one evening when I witnessed a tag team event.

In addition, the two boys were constantly competing with each other. They would have crowing competitions in the middle of the night! Crowing all through the day. So much crowing. Fighting all the time. So much noise.

We were past caring what happened to the extra rooster. I became more concerned about the health of my laying hens and the daily egg count.  At first we thought we would butcher and eat it, but we couldn't seem to muster up the courage to do it. Some evenings I was tempted to just lock one out of the coop and let it fend for itself with the night creatures. 

I had decided we should keep the dominant Rooster A, despite my urge to root for the underdog.  It was easy to identify him since he had the bigger feathers and less battle wounds. So then we waited for the right moment.

One of our neighbors stopped by the other morning to talk about our mutual fence line where his cows get through into our pasture. He also keeps chickens, so we mentioned the trouble we were having with our two roosters and he offered to help. He thought one of his friends would want it. I managed to isolate Rooster B inside the coop and was able to catch him without injury (to me, not him). Neighbor tied him up on his four-wheeler and took him away, no more questions asked.

Good riddance was all I could say.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how calm and quiet the chickens all are now. No more fighting. No more fussing. Little crowing. Much less servicing going on. I am hopeful that the girls' feathers will all grow back. So much for choosing a breed with pretty feathers. 

I'm embarrassed to show you the pictures.

Our neighbor tied Rooster B onto the back of his four-wheeler.

The hens lost feathers in two basic areas: around the neck and on the back.

This is the hen with the gash on her back.

She is also the hen with the rawest neck.

Most feather loss was on their backs.

All the hens have suffered to some extent.

Damage to the back

More neck and back damage

Hopefully Rooster A will rediscover the art of the mating ritual.

The fencing is arranged in a narrow run to discourage hawks.

Everyone is much happier now.