Monday, October 25, 2010

What Came First, the Egg or...

O.K. So I waited a while to post this strange happening because I am afraid no one will believe me, but I have decided that as a journalist, of sorts, I needed to post this strange freekish happening and the hell with my credibility!

First, let's review two points that have been established in previous posts : 1) I have had chickens most of my life. 2) our Cuckoo Marans lay a lot of double yolkers.

A couple of weeks ago I had a basket of eggs (we've gotten a little behind on our egg eating lately) and I decide to make a frittata.

I look into the basket and I see a HUGE egg. It's a little misshapen and I think to myself "Ouch! That had to hurt." Then I think "It's so big it might be a triple yolker!"

This is where, in retrospect, I wish I had taken a picture
before I cracked it open.

Because what is inside of this gigantic egg is NOT two yolks, is NOT three yolks but....

(cue Twilight Zone theme song) an EGG INSIDE OF THE EGG! (and a little egg white), with an actual hard shell! I have
never seen such a thing before, nor has any farmer I have asked.

I loved our daughter June's reaction "How does that even happen?" she says with a disgusted look on her face. We pondered, but knowing chicken eggs are formed in a sort of ovarian assembly line procedure, could think of no reasonable explanation.
So which came first, the egg or the egg inside the egg?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lady Bugs Everywhere

This poor spider kept running after each ladybug that landed but then walked away disgusted when his future lunch turned out to be a stinky ol' ladybug.

When I was having my breakfast this morning I looked out the trailer window and saw something swarming over the meadow by the bee hive. I felt a little panic. But I also could see there was no rhyme or reason to their flight so I went out to see what was going on. There were ladybugs were everywhere!

Apparently ladybugs find a place to hibernate by flying wildly around until they find just the right place. Either that or they were having one really good hootenanny in the sun before winter comes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's Getting Chilly Outside

Though we are having miraculously good weather, I love it when it rains at night and sun shines in the day, the Mercury is dropping.

There are a lot of things to do around the Homestead to get ready for that inevitable day when it begins to rain and will not stop until that precious week of clear weather in February, and then resumes raining until.... July?

Anyway, I have a miserable cold right now, but I don't want to do the weatherproofing in the rain so I am scrambling to get everything done.

  • Outdoor water faucets covered.
  • Important hoses insulated and heating wires plugged in
  • Roofs caulked, screwed down, swept and covered accordingly.
  • Garden mulched and made ready to plant in early spring.

I killed two birds with one stone on these two. We have several old outbuildings that have accumulated several inches of duff and moss. It's not good for the tin and needs to be swept off, which is a lot of work.

The result though is this fabulous addition to the garden. It makes the soil super light and fluffy

and looks like some kind of topiary kingdom when I line the raised beds with it.

  • Bees fed their Fall syrup so they can fill any empty combs for when they need it this winter.
  • Bee hive insulated.

I put a cotton sheet on top of the bars and piled on a couple flakes of grass hay as insulation under the roof to keep it warm inside for the bees but still let the hive "breath". Moisture can be a real problem for the bees in the winter.

I had to repair the roof for the hive. I usually don't put on my full bee suit anymore but I was warned that using power tools near the bees was asking for it. It turned out they couldn't have cared less.

  • Hoses and outdoor furniture put in the barn.
  • Mowing everywhere before it's too wet.
  • Mulching a new part of garden so the grass will be gone by spring.

  • Mulching where I want to plant a patch of asparagus (I have not informed Buck of these last two projects yet, it will require a new fence and he is still working on the Hay House. I don't want to completely overwhelm him).

Hooray for Buck! Doing an awesome job.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Some Photos and a Painting

I have been really busy lately. I am helping to set up a Community Garden and it has taken a lot of what little spare time I have had. It's a very important project though and near and dear to my heart and I am glad to be involved.
Because of the time crunch I was thinking I would thrill you with a post full of photos I took this last week.

I also managed to finish a painting last week.

All in all it's been a great week here at the Homestead.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Barn Work

It has been a while since I posted. Not for lack of activity, but for lack of activity pertinent to this blog. Our lives have other aspects than the ones we chronicle here.

However there have been a few things I have been doing.

We are shaping up an old barn. Maybe it will be called the Hay House, as some of Phoebe's relatives lived in it years ago, when they first were on this property.

One thing I am doing is digging out years of accumulated barn floor duff. It is a mix of old hay, sheep manure, bailing twine, pallets and the odds and ends of 70 years of barn-ness.

The floor itself does not look like much, as you can see in the above photo. But as you see below, there is a fair amount of it built up. Phoebe points out that it is basically cob, a building material made of straw and mud. I am not sure the ratios are right for it to be used for anything, but maybe.

Digging out 18 inches of this stuff made for a dusty couple of afternoons; it also noticeably increased the amount of room in the barn. I got down to the layer of dirt and rock on the bottom, and if we ever get a tractor up here, we may take it down another 6". Every bit will help when we start stacking tons of hay in there.

Some of the tin on the roof needed replacing, so I poked at that for a bit. Some of the tenants in the barn were not happy. The lizards that live on the roof were curious, but not too upset.

It was the bats that I felt most sorry for. Woken in the middle of their night, only to move house in the blinding sun. I console myself with the thought that they will soon be able to move back in and that their abode will be better for the effort.

There was also a colony of mice living in the barn floor. I felt like I was some kind of villain in a Watership Down nightmare for them, as I chipped away at the duff, exposing their tunnels and burrows. Oh well. Mice in the wild I am fine with. Mice inside, not so much. The barn is kind of a middle ground between those two extremes, and I have no doubt the mice will be back. And once we have some grain in there, it will once again be time for them to go. So it goes

Friday, October 1, 2010


Everyone is hungry here. The chickens, the bees, the dogs and the people. We are seemingly driven by our inner clock to put on the layer of fat we will need later in our winter hibernation. I am having cravings for stew and biscuits. I'm baking banana bread and cookies. The dogs are begging for second dinner and the chickens race toward anyone who seems to be flinging anything (including dog toys) with what seems to be little chicken dreams of bread crusts and apple cores in their tiny feathered heads.

The bees are going at it a different way. They have no power to improve the flying weather and they cannot make flowers bloom in the fall. What they can do to increase their share of winter stores is reduce their numbers. So (I imagine with the Red Queen's, of Alice in Wonderland, voice) off with the drones!

Down at the hive there was much commotion as the worker bees persistently showed the drones the door, and the drones persistently returned, unable to understand why they are no longer being served as they had all their short lives. They have, it seems, become unnecessary.

A worker bee chases out a large drone on the far left
and the other bees on the right seem to be having a meeting

In a hive society where what you have stored by now is all you have for the winter, it makes no sense to continue feeding and caring for drones who can in no way help with the tasks at hand. Drones have no pollen sacks, no ability to forage and no stinger with which to defend the nest or themselves.

Hatching, amazingly, from unfertilized eggs, drones are simply for mating. A genetic delivery system to send out the queen's genes to other hives who have new queens. When the season cools, several hundred drones are banished from the hive to become food for the hornets and wasps who hover below the entrance.

A "yellow jacket" hovers to pick off a drone.

In the full circle of the world of insects, the drones become winter food for the other insects who live nearby.