Baby Bird

Despite being so tiny, the three day old red rump chick was tough. Its mama decided she had better things to do than take care of her offspring. So his care and feeding was up to the humans who barely had a clue about such things.

Online information sources about hand feeding chicks did not prove to be much help. For instance, they disagreed on some very specific points. One said to be sure that the chick’s crop was completely empty before feeding. Another said it was okay to feed if it wasn’t completely empty. And for other points — well, the directions were clearly for larger species and / or older chicks.

It took a few days to get the “nest” satisfactory. The chick did not stay put in the center of the homemade brooder. It kept wandering off and would be found under one of the paper towels or tissues that were put in there for support. Eventually a shallow tupperware dish was found and crumpled tissues filled most of the area that wasn’t occupied by the chick. The baby seemed to settle down after feedings almost immediately when he was in the small cozy space.

Of course the whole feeding routine has been a learning experience for both of us. For the first few days, feeding meant getting as much food on the outside of the chick as when inside him. The tip of the feeding syringe seemed too big for the beak it had to service. Fortunately the chick did get enough to eat and in a very short time his size and appetite increased dramatically.

Baby has made it through two weeks of being hand feed and is currently covered in fuzzy gray down.  A few more days until real feathers appear and we may get the first hints of the baby’s gender.

Garden Tool

Several of the sources mentioned the value of keeping a garden journal to document what one planted and how it did. So it was a no-brainer that I would be frequently taking the camera to the garden. I am realizing that I should have the camera handy any time I am near the garden or wandering around our property. Otherwise there will be either a missed photo op of a passing critter or else a dash through the house to fetch the camera and a trail of muddy footprints.

One example of the latter situation was my enounter with the California King snake. I had been working on getting the drip system in the garden working and went over to the house to turn on the water. There, by the side of the house, was a snake. Not the usual gopher snakes I had seen around previously. But a more colorful brown and cream striped one, about 30 inches long. Apparently the snake was as surprised to see me as I was it. While I dashed off into the house to grab the camera, it headed in the other direction for cover. Fortunately it did not go too far. A while later I went to get the mail and found it near the mailbox. This time the camera was close and I got a few photos before it disappeared down a gopher hole. (A week later, my husband found a snakeskin in that gopher hole. From the faint pattern of stripes and size, it probably belonged to my acquaintance from the previous week. )

Seeds have sprouted

It has been almost two weeks and the green beans, peas, corn, potatoes and a few other things are easy to spot from a distance.  I know corn and potatoes take a long time, but I remembered green beans and peas for being quick.  I checked the seed catalog information and it said 60 days.  So I have at least a month yet before I may have fresh green beans for dinner.  It is almost like waiting for Christmas when I was a kid — it is taking so long!

While I was surprised by how quickly the corn, green beans and peas germinated, I was equally surprised at how long it has taken the carrots, onion family and spinach.  They are just poking up above the ground now and don’t seem to have as good a germination rate as the others.  Perhaps that is a clue I should start these inside and put out as transplants next year.  Well, not the carrots — I will just need to make sure that the soil where they are planted won’t crust over or dry out before they germinate.

The zucchini is not doing so well so far.  It has bloomed, but apparently has not been pollinated as the pods wither and die instead of growing once the flower fades.  I suspect a lack of bees in the area to do the pollination. I will see if I can play bee for the next couple to be sure. The tomatoes are just starting to show blossoms and I hope they will be making fruit shortly.

Building the Garden

We decided that we would start with four 4 foot by 8 foot raised beds.  These were made from a composite material which a local lumber yard stocked.  Hardware cloth was placed on the bottom of each box as a barrier for the gophers.  Here they are waiting upside down on the driveway.

They were to go on a fairly level piece of ground not too far from the kitchen.

The beds were going to be on drip watering, so we needed to bring water to the site.  The PVC pipe for the water was buried in a trench from and outdoor faucet to the location of the beds.

An enormous pile of planter mix was delivered and then shoveled into the wheelbarrow and dumped into the raised beds.

Then it was time to enclosed the garden area with a fence to keep out the deer, rabbits and other critters. Since we would be expanding the garden area in the future, T-posts were used to old the fence wire except for the ends at the gate where wood posts were used.  The drip tubing was set in place and then it was time to plant.

I finally have a garden again!

One of the reasons for buying acerage was to have room for a bigger garden and more fruit trees and berries than we had in our home back in Saratoga years ago. The place in Saratoga was a fixer upper and it required some hard work to get things going there. However, in moving from a surburban quarter acre to almost five acres in a more rural area the scale of things makes the difficulty of some projects a lot bigger than just the relative sizes. Our yard in Saratoga had a fence, and although there was an ongoing problem with gophers the “pests” were managable. Here, the area is open, gophers set up an extensive freeway system below the surface, and deer, jack rabbits and cottontails are regular visitors. There are some weeds which are so nasty they would be a marvel of bio-engineering had they come out of the laboratories instead of mother nature. o the process to get things to the garden I have pictured in my head has simply been out of reach… and twenty years have gone by.

This past year I started sketching out the garden plans again.   As I worked over the ideas, I found that some of the old assumptions needed to be changed. And as I started making those changes, they seemed to propagate other changes. But it was clear that the grand scheme was going to not going to happen this year — and probably not next year either.

  So I looked for options that might work while the bigger pieces were still to be done. The result — very simple — four raised beds that could be set up near the house with a minimal amount of fencing. While the initial concept was that these were to be “temporary” beds, as that part got going, the temporary part has vanished and another series of changes — improvements to the overall plan have happened as a result of the experience so far.

The drip system for watering was completed over the Memorial Day weekend. Seedlings and seeds planted the week before are beginning to make the beds look more like a garden. I am looking forward to discovering what will grow here and am hoping for fresh corn and green beans and vine ripened tomatoes to serve at mealtime again.