Wednesday, September 25, 2013

There Be Stars

Far out, what is with this wind!  Day after day we are issued with severe weather warnings for the tempests raging around us.  Not so much rain, but very cloudy, and the wind!  It's been a waste of time doing much outside so we have become rather slothful, watching multiple catch-up episodes of Breaking Bad (currently up to Ep 6 of Season 5 - the train, far out, rather intense!  People who have watched will understand what I mean).

Although we've had warning after warning of winds over 100 kph over the last week, we've got through it with no damage, just a bit of mess.  Tuesday night was different, it was so noisy, the windows shook, we couldn't sleep and it was a bit scary!  We did an inspection yesterday morning and found a huge piece of tree had crashed down alongside the driveway, so it was out with the chainsaw and the cutters and the rakes to cut it up and clean up.  Our house holds up well in the wind which is great. 
So, on a positive note, we now have an unexpected trailerload of firewood for next winter!  And loads of branches and leaves tossed onto the ever enlarging bonfire.  When the wind abates we'll finally be able to light it.  During a lull in the wind we drove to a couple of lookouts, expecting to see massive waves an swell.  Hmmm.  This is Shelley Beach and in the distance, Torbay Head.  Flat as a tack.  I've never seen it so flat!  The winds are westnorwesters and the land is protecting the ocean here.
We are currently going through another morning of galeforce winds, which is supposed to abate later today, then the forecasts are much more civilised.  Last night I woke up and actually saw stars in the sky, first time for ages!
On a celebratory note.....da-dum!  A month after bringing home our four little red hens we are proud to announce egg number 100.  Aren't they just the cleverest little girls.  :-)
The girls are getting more and more adventurous with food now.  I don't think they had had much experience with greens before they came here.  They ignored veggie leaves we tossed over the fence to them for the most part.  Then I started chopping up the greens along with crushed egg shells and other kitchen scraps and they got the hang of it, and gobble up the greens first now.  But their most very favourite thing is when I pull up a spent cauliflower plant and toss the whole plant over to them.  They run over to it, pecking away furiously at the leaves and any hapless bugs that may be trying to hide, and by the end of the day that huge bushy plant will be a mere skeleton.
Is that the look of a happy hen or what, that's Angie at the front with the jaunty lean to her comb.  They are all looking somewhat rounder since they moved in don't you think.  They are so funny, I never really knew how curious chickens are.  And they know now, because I am a soft touch, that whenever I come into their yard that I have something for them.  They crowd around the gate so I have to fight to get in, then they all stand really tall, trying to see if I have anything in my hand.  And if they notice anything sticking out they get really excited and literally jump up and down like small children!  Any my goodness, if I come in with a handful of their absolute most favourite thing, prawn tails, they go crazy!  Wilma will be jumping up, trying to peck them out of my hand, then, when I throw them down, they each grab one and run off to a different corner to gobble them down, then to chase slower eaters around to try and steal theirs.  So funny to watch.  :-)
 
This is the flighty but adventurous Wilma, coming into my face to see what's happening.  There's always a touch of an evil glint in her eye.  Wilma hangs around me a lot and is happy as long as I don't touch her.... she is a smart cookie who knows I have food and who always grabs the most prawn tails. 
I've finally worked out the pecking order.  They are a very amiable group of ladies who get on very well, but when yummy stuff is around then the hierarchy sometimes becomes evident. We have two lots of two.... the two bosses are Anne and Angie, and the lowlier pair are Leanne and Wilma.  But really, all that happens is Anne, who is the absolute supreme overlord, may give Wilma or Leanne a mild peck on the top of the head if they get too close.  And they just lower their heads as if to say, yeah, sorry boss, I'll back off a bit.  Then all is fine.  Wilma has also got this sorted by becoming the roadrunner chicken, she darts in so fast and grabs the good stuff and is off before anyone blinks an eye.
  
The lush yard of kikuku grass is starting to look a bit lean, I never knew just how much chickens scratch.  There is probably half the grass remaining, but we have areas elsewhere of kikuyu that we want to get rid of, so Steve occasionally cuts a big square of turf out and barrows it over to their yard, to keep some grass growing.  I planted a shrub in a corner of the yard, tree lucerne, a fast grower with edible seed pods for them.  But I had to fortify the ground around it big time, to keep those little velociraptor claws away from the roots!
 
Not a lot is happening in my sewing room, now that the pink quilts have been made and delivered.  I am trying to finish off small pieces of embroidery for now.  This is a cottage garden scene that I have been adding to, on and off for years.  Currently I am sewing in a woven type roof, but am making it harder for myself because I stubbornly will not take out the already sewn flowers, instead taking the needle through underneath the flowers to complete the roof.  I could do with making myself an A4 size tote bag and plan to use this embroidery as a panel on the tote.
This is my newest piece, it's going to be the poshest pot holder you ever did see.  :-)  The embroidery is finished, I just have to pad it and back it to make it up into a potholder.  Very happy with how this  turned out.
 And a little blackwork bookmark in the making, for a gift.
 
Well, the wind is still howling, and the rain is now bucketing down, which is good as it stops the sand blowing around and creating sand dunes outside the back door.  Time for a cuppa I think....

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fence Posts and Family

Now that the chook house and yard are complete, all the other jobs around the place can get a look in, or at least a consideration and then the decision to put that job away until later.  The task that won the lottery is to re-fence my garden area which is on the other side of the driveway and abuts the chooks and the vegies.  As you can see it has a very makeshift fence that I put up some time ago, to give me a place to keep my pot plants and to get a few plants growing out of the reach of kangaroos, who consider grevillea, acacia and the olive tree to be quite a delicacy.  The odd small rabbit has snuck its way in under the crudely fashioned fence and snacked on some of the smaller plants, action is needed!
 
So Steve has started refencing for me, using much prettier pine poles rather than the star pickets I used. He noticed whilst hard at work digging holes for the pine poles that he had a sweeping and lazy audience.  Can you see all those little blobs on the grass?  They are kangaroos, having a lovely time basking in the sun on the warm grass.  It never ceases to amaze me the way they lie flat out on the grass, snoozing away..
There has been a bit of rain about recently, not as much as Perth I might add, but we've had the odd day of deluges.  The last time it happened we and visitor Angie all donned our anoraks and went for a walk along the creek.  We felt like small children on an adventure and got thoroughly saturated, good fun.
 The waterfall was pumping away.
 Helga's bridge floated away again.
And Angie ended up like a drowned rat after the rain sheeted down her jacket and saturated her jeans and shoes!
 On the chook front, we are getting plenty of eggs, some days they all lay to give us four.  I think we've had about 65 eggs so far, so three of the girls have already paid for themselves.  It surprises me how clean the eggs are, these are very particular hens who do not stoop so low as to poo in their nesting boxes.
Now they are used to a very varied diet, their eggs have developed a lovely rich colour.  Look how yellow those scrambled eggs are.  And yummy, very yummy!
I am currently visiting the big smoke, with a few missions in mind.  First stop was Paul's house, to deliver the two pinks quilts to their recipients.  Here is Riley on her quilt.
And here is Stevie on hers.  I think they liked them, well, I knew I'd be pretty safe making them with pink fabrics.  :-)
Cuddles with Grandma Dy
 
The sun shone in Perth this morning, first time for days apparently, so Paul and I took advantage of this and walked to the playground with the girls. 
 
Next stop was a visit to Michelle this morning and now I am tucked up at mum and dad's house for a few days.  Good to catch up. :-)
 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Annual Haircut

The locks have been flowing around here for some time.  Steve tends to have an annual haircut around September, when his hair begins to annoy him.  The day arrived this week and I thought I'd mark the occasion with photographs.
 
 Here we have the 'before' shots

And here is the lad after his appointment with the hairdresser.  Look at those natural ash streaks eh, ha ha.  He can be happy now using a thimbleful of shampoo and having hair that dries in a minute.
Steve has been busy making the official sign for the hen house and yard.  The House Of Chic was carefully etched into a nice piece of jarrah, then painted and varnished.  Looks pretty darn good eh!
We had a delightful visit from Angie this weekend.  She had the experience of voting with us in a tiny community hall as an absentee vote, then we choofed into Denmark for a wander round, culminating in lunch at the Denmark Tavern.
Angie and I got busy digging up grass in my overgrown garden and we thought the hens might like to join us.  This was their first occasion of free-ranging, I carried them one at a time and dropped them over the fence into my garden.  They had the BEST time, right in the thick of it all, to the point that we had to watch where we trod and put our tools.  Every time we spaded or forked up a clump of grass, the girls were stomping around in the hole, grabbing worms and slaters and other delectable titbits.  It made weeding a lot more fun too.  :-)
 We have had 48 eggs now, so two of the hens have paid for themselves.  We are getting 2 or 3 eggs  day for the most part which is terrific.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hen Love

As expected, because I am in obsessive love with our hens, they provide most of today's blog content.  The girls have settled down very well and we are getting, on average, three eggs per day.  Steve has a bit of an issue with egg collection, he doesn't like the hens to see him collecting the eggs, waiting instead for them to go out in the yard, so their accusing eyes don't meet his.  Dag :-)

Angie and Anne are very tame and will tolerate me picking them up and cuddling them.  Wilma runs  a mile and has to be cornered to be captured, while Leanne will bolt if she can, but if she gets a fright she freezes, then bobs down and stamps up and down on the spot with her wings slightly raised which makes it easy to pick her up.  Odd! 

They are ever so nosy and follow me round as I lift up things, diving in to see if there is anything interesting underneath.  This, I think, is Anne, waiting while I shift a piece of wood, she is hoping for a few tasty slaters to eat.
We have worked out that Angie and Leanne are the most regular egg layers, Wilma lays the smallest eggs every second day or so, and Anne lays the biggest eggs.  And we all know why that is don't we, it's because of that big bum! :-)
The girls are incredibly alert to the sounds of other birds.  Here they are at attention after a magpie flew overhead.  Wilma in the background, Angie front left and Leanne next to her.  I notice that Leanne has  small bald patch on her neck and suspect that Angie may be responsible - I have seen Angie peck Leanne a couple of times, not with much aggression, but enough to point out who is boss!
They also come running if they see or hear either of us coming, then they flock around our legs as we come into their yard.  Just as well we are fencing the section beyond their gate as it wont be long before one of them escapes, it is hard getting out of the gate!
Here is Angie concentrating hard on some minute speck on the ground with Anne coming over to have a look.  They have amazing eyesight!
 
 Here is Wilma looking grand.  We'll just ignore the embarrassing tail.  :-)
Here is Leanne coming over to say hello whilst I sit on the ground.  Amazingly I managed to sit in their yard with my camera and didn't sit in any chook poo.
 
The girls made their own decision about where to have their dustbath.  They grovel in the dirty, dusty sand, getting absolutely filthy, then after a while have a darn good shake to get rid of the dirt along with any skin irritations.  We have been adding wood ash to the sand to make it dustier, and I have also ordered some diatomacious earth to add to their dust bath, it's supposed to do a good job with cleaning up their skin.  I subjected them all to a grab and inspection of their skin after seeing some horrendous photos of skin parasites on Google.  Thankfully these ladies seem to be skin parasite free so hopefully with a good dust bath it will stay that way.  In saying that, the rain bucketed down overnight and their dust bath is currently a quagmire!  I was thinking that one of those bright blue clam shell sand pit thingies with a lid would work a treat.  ha ha ha
 
 This is the view of  The House Of Chic and yard from our house, pretty isn't it.
And we are very very very glad that we were prompt with netting over the top of their yard.  I was in the kitchen the other afternoon, about 5pm, when I noticed something large and dark out of the corner of my eye.  On closer inspection, it was a wedge tail eagle, on the ground behind our house.  And it had something.  After a moment of panic re chookies, I realised the eagle had caught a rabbit.
Thankfully we didn't have to witness the capture and kill, that had already happened, but we snuck into our back bedroom, where the eagle was just outside, and quietly watched.  Isn't it a beautiful bird, so magnificent.  And so big, we realised that our hens wouldn't stand a chance against something like this.
I wont horrify you with gory photos, but I watched as the eagle ate the top half of the rabbit, gulping down the big chunks it was tearing off.  I expected it to take away the rest of the rabbit but it didn't, eventually flying away, leaving the lower half of the rabbit on the ground.  Next morning it had gone whether the eagle returned or a fox grabbed it, who knows.
On a final note, the kangaroos have always occasionally enjoyed citrus accents with their grass, but suddenly they are getting stuck right in to eating our trees, small as they are, down to nothing.  Steve made these terrific tree protectors which I think look rather classy as well as keeping out the pesky roos.  Take that pesky roos, eat the grass not the trees!