Monday, September 15, 2008

Spring Summary

Now that summer is just a few days from being over, it seems like a good time to summarize how our spring went.

Our 2008 kidding season ended in the first half of May, with a grand total of 76 kids on the ground. This is the biggest kidding season so far, and honestly, I hope the biggest one ever. Too many bottle babies! Too many kids to disbud at a time! In previous years, there have always been some fall kids, but Andy wisely suggested that I refrain from any spring breedings because he could see even better than I could that I really needed a break.

Shortly after my last spring post, we checked on the titmouse family, and found six fat and happy fluff balls in the birdhouse, and as far as we could tell, they all successfully left home at the appropriate time. The kestrels fledged out four young kestrels from their birdhouse over the heat pump. A few pairs of tree swallows showed quite a bit of interest in the unoccupied bird house on what in wetter years would be our back lawn, but still no takers.

In more domestic bird news, a couple of our hens decided to hatch out some chicks, although it is becoming quite obvious that Blackbeard, our fairly laid-back Red Jungle Fowl-Auracana cross rooster is way too related to many of our hens, because quite a few of the chicks had "issues". I'd like to find him a new home, and he really isn't human-aggressive, so if anyone is interested, do let me know. We also added just under a dozen New Hampshire hens to the flock- a welcome infusion of youth since many of our hens are now in the 5+ year range (not to mention that the majority of our hens were done in by raccoons last summer). New Hampshires are in the background of Rhode Island Reds, but tend to run a bit bigger, and these hens seem to be more on the copper side of the color scale. They are a bit of a sentimental favorite- this is the type of chicken that I got from UC Davis when I was in fourth grade, and the last of those hens died when I was in college. They are considered somewhat of a rare breed these days, and I'm finding that these are quite a bit friendlier than most of the other breeds of chickens we currently have. I think the only chickens that may be bolder are our Speckeled Sussex hens, and those girls love to roam.

This is the fifth year that our property has had a break from the copious herbicides (and we suspect insecticides) that the previous owners used here. We've seen quite a bit of plant life come back to areas that were suspiciously bare, and the beneficial insects have come as well. You can sort of see a few of the lady bugs that we found all over the place in spring on the yarrow (picture at left)- there were about thirty on this plant alone. We've also seen quite a few mantis, and more butterflies later in the season than in previous years. We typically see Monarchs, Swallowtails, Buckeyes, and occasionally a small blue butterfly a biologist once told me was an "Echo Blue", but I haven't been able to find a butterfly by that name in any butterfly-identifying book. I also saw quite a few types of spiders I haven't ever seen before, as well as the wolf spiders I am (unfortunately) used to seeing in the barn.

We again got a fly predator subscription, and those little buggers work really well. What they don't get, the lizards that have moved into the barn seem to get. I think there are four western fence lizards living in the barn full-time right now- the one that hangs out in the area where I make soap has become so habituated to my presence that if I don't look out for it, it won't always scurry out of my path. I've recently seen some teeny lizards around the barn area, so apparently the lizards are happy enough to expand their population around here.

In my next post, I plan on doing a summer update, which will include the AGS National show, our first Linear Appraisal Session, and milk test.