Friday, April 30, 2010

Monster Millipede

While I've been working outside doing yardwork recently I've found several HUGE millipedes.  The one in the below picture was found today, and it was almost as big as my palm.  I would estimate that it was approximately 4 inches or longer if I unrolled it, which I did not, as it was squirming.  I fed it to my chickens, as I do with all bugs I find.  After doing some research, I determined it was a "narceus americanus".

From Wikipedia:
A narceus americanus is a large North American millipede. It inhabits the eastern seaboard of the United States through southeastern Canada and west to central Texas. It is one of the largest North American millipede species, reaching a length of four inches. When threatened, they sometimes curl up or release a noxious liquid that contains large amounts of benzoquinones which can cause dermatological burns. This fluid may irritate eyes or skin.

Maybe I shouldn't feed these to my chickens...

Ramblings at Razzberry Corner

Time has been flying, and I haven't been posting much here at Razzberry Corner!  I've been real busy with my day job, and it seems blogging has taken a backseat.  Today it's almost 90 degrees outside, and who wants to be in on the computer on a clear and sunny day like this?!  So this will be fast!!!  Not alot of formatting or pictures with this post...


Lots has been going on...  Let's see, where do I even begin??

Ah ha, Muffin, the attack roo. I've learned to carry a broom.  He's afraid of an old straw broom.   I've asserted my dominance over the flock with the broom - I wasn't mean, but a few roosters got pushed to the side with the broom.  One of them was getting busy with a hen right in front of me - that's a no-no.  I read no rooster should never be allowed to do that in front of a dominant human like me.  So the hen action was stopped by a light tap with the broom to the rooster's back.  I think the hen was grateful.  Another rooster didn't like the shoes I was wearing, and he wanted to peck at them.  I just showed him the broom and how it swings quickly, I didn't hit him, but he took off running, honking, warning the others of my new friend, the broom monster.

Muffin and the other boys saw me being dominant, and they saw the broom monster.  Now Muffin watches me from afar, no attacks in the past week.  I've even been able to wear bright pink and red around him.  Without jackets covering my colors.  And no attacks.  I'm going to keep working with the chickens.  I just needed some guidance on how to raise roosters - it's not as easy as raising hens.  I've been picking up Muffin and the other roosters as often as I can, especially in the evenings in the coop.  I hug them and rub their necks and wattles, which they seem to enjoy.  I hold them for as much time as I can spend out in the coop, they stretch out their necks and try to sleep in my arms like them they used to do were little peepers.


A few weeks ago I mentioned the death of a woodchuck in my backyard.  I decided it had to be a fox.  Well, I have not seen any foxes since then, and I've been keeping an eye out, especially in the mornings and evenings.  No sight of any fox.  I've looked for tracks around the woodchuck hole which I thought had been taken over by a fox.  No fox tracks or any tracks, actually.  But I have seen Mr. Who II.  He's a beautiful and large great horned owl.  I usually see him in the evenings or early mornings by our driveway/dirt road.  A couple days ago I saw him sitting in a tree right near the chicken coop.  When he saw me he flew away and was attacked by a few black crows on his way into the deep woods.  I have no idea why crows don't like owls, but they always seem to attack them.  I didn't think great horned owls would kill a woodchuck, but I just found a few sites online where it did say that could happen.  I never found the entire body of the dead woodchuck, just pieces, so maybe it was Mr. Who II. 

And what was Mr. Who II doing near my chickens?  

As a side note, Mr. Who II was named after Mr Who, who is a barred owl who lived by our previous house, which is now a rental property.  Mr. Who was always near our house, he wasn't afraid of us in the least bit.  I was able to take plenty of pictures of Mr. Who; he would always smile for the camera.  Mr. Who II, the great horned owl, on the other hand, is very camera shy.

   The original owl, Mr. Who


We still have 2 very Broody hens - Bella and Charlotte.  Will they ever get out of the nest boxes.  The last broody girl, Zoner, got over it after a month.  Bella and Charlotte have been at it over a month now.  Soon it will be other hens, I guess they all need to go thru it.  Maybe we will start preparing for babies, and will let one of them sit on some eggs - that would be exciting.  Chicks are SO very cute! 
We'll have to think about it, determine if we're ready for chicks again... 

On the chicken front, we have so, so, so many eggs.  I've been selling them to friends, co-workers, neighbors.  I just sold 4 dozen yesterday, and I counted the eggs in my fridge this afternoon, and look - there's another 4 dozen in there!  And I haven't collected from the nest boxes yet today, they'll be at least 10 out there...  I'm going to start bringing them to church on Sundays, to friends houses on the weekends.  People will call me the crazy egg lady...
Did I just say in the previous paragraph I was considering more chickens??? 


Here's a closing picture of Jack, the cat, lounging on this warm, lazy spring afternoon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

That Fighting Bird

This is just a quick post to provide an update on a recent issue here. 

The rooster, Muffin. 

I previously posted how he attacked me once when I was wearing an orange shirt. 
I thought it was just because of the shirt. 

Now he attacks me whenever I wear bright or light colors near the chickens.  Or if I wear a light shirt covered by a dark jacket.  Or if he's in a bad mood.
Most of the time he attacks me when my back is turned.  He attacks me with his feet, not his beak. 
He runs up to me very, very fast and makes his attack, over and over attacking me with his feet. 
I cannot turn my back on him and run, as this makes him worse. 
I cannot raise my foot or my hand to him, as this makes him attack even worse that I thought possible.  

The only way to make him stop is to throw food near him during the attack. 
Lee at Farm Folly gave me that suggestion - thank you, Lee, it does work. 

I don't always have scratch grain with me, but I've learned to make do with anything I can fnd. 
Today when I was out with the chickens, at first Muffin was fine, totally relaxed around me.  I was wearing a light tan shirt covered by a dark jacket (which I thought would keep me safe from Muffin's moods). 

After about ten minutes as I was walking around I heard Muffin running at me.  I quickly turned and found him attacking me from behind, his neck feathers all puffed up like a backwards bowl around his head.  I was in a low culvert, Muffin was coming at me from above, at chest height.  Instinctively I put my hand out to stop his attack as he was flying towards me.  This made him attack even worse, as it always does.  I think him seeing my hand (or foot) go out makes him think I'm trying to fight him and makes him more aggressive.
After I fended off his initial attack with my hand/arm, he dropped to the ground, and as he bounced back up at me I reached down and grabbed some dirt, dead pine leaves, and pine cones and threw them at his feet.  This distracted him and gave me a couple seconds to reach for a few live green leaves from a nearby bush. 

Quickly I threw the green leaves at him, and when he saw them he made his clucking sound which called all the hens to come eat.  The hens all came running at record speeds and gathered around.  I was grabbing more leaves to use as a distraction for the next attack. 
But Muffin forgot that he was in the middle of a fight to the death, and I was able to run away to safety, throwing leaves behind me.

Muffin won that fight, but at least I survived. 

That rooster has got to go.  He's a fighting bird.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Four Leaf Clover

I'm going to get some luck this week!  I recently found a Four Leaf Clover!

The following was taken from Wikipedia:

The four-leaf clover is an uncommon variation of the common, three-leaved clover. According to tradition, such leaves bring good luck to their finders, especially if found accidentally. According to legend, each leaflet represents something: the first is for hope, the second is for faith, the third is for love, and the fourth is for luck.

Clovers can have more than four leaflets: the most ever recorded is twenty-one, a record set in June 2008.  It has been estimated that there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Death of a Woodchuck

We have a lot of woodchucks/groundhogs who live in our backyard in the summer months.  We have quite a few woodchuck holes here and there, but the holes in the ground really don't bother us much.  We know where the holes are, and can avoid them so as not to twist or break our ankles.  

We only have male woodchucks, we don't know why.  They entertain us with their little territory "fights", which consist of two woodchucks facing each other, puffing up their tails, and then wagging their tails.  Eventually they walk or run away from each other.  Woodchucks are not mean animals, we have never seen any aggression from them whatsoever.  They seem to only eat grass, weeds, and clover.  They never disturb our garden, which is close to their homes.  When we disturb them by walking into our backyard they run to their homes and hide.  We have no females, hence no baby woodchucks  The females must live deeper in the woods, I don't know.

As far as we've seen other animals don't bother the woodchucks.  Jerry, the outside cat, used to "pretend hunt"  the woodchucks ~ he would squat down and try to hide behind some tall grass and watch them for hours before falling asleep.  The woodchucks are larger than Jerry, I do not think he could kill a woodchuck.  Jerry would take a mouse or a bird without thinking, but not a woodchuck.

This past week, as I was walking in my backyard, I realized a woodchuck had been killed by it's hole.  It was awful, body parts scattered around the ground.  Hair everywhere.  Then I found it's tail.  So sad. 

It appears the woodchuck hole has been enlarged, dug out by a bigger animal.  And the former tenant was killed and his remains scattered about by the doorway into the underground home.

I assume a fox is the culprit.  I have recently seen a beautiful red fox in our backyard.  I figured he lived deeper in the woods.  And I figured he want to be far away from humans, especially since there are so many other woodchuck homes which he could have chosen in the woods.  But it appears he chose this home, right in our backyard.

This raises a big concern for my chickens, if foxes are now living right in the backyard.  My husband planned on totally free-ranging the chickens eventually, letting them out of their fenced-in area.  Maybe not.  We will have to keep an eye on the new neighbor for a while to see if he stays and continues to kill the other neighbors.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Asparagus gone wild!

I've mentioned in previous posts that we found asparagus on our property when we moved here.  This property was farmed for hundreds of years, and I have no idea when the original "gus" was first planted.  I'm always learning something about this property; it's so interesting. 

The asparagus is growing very well after all these years, the stalks from the original patch are huge and come up every spring.  The asparagus patch is in the middle of a field in our back yard.  When we moved here the field grass was chest high.  Now we keep it mowed, but we don't mow around the asparagus patch, we have to cut that by hand in the spring.  The below picture shows at least 4 asparagus stalks growing in the grass.  And this is just one section; there are more large stalks growing all around.  (The grass needs some hand-trimming when I took this pic!)

There is a second smaller patch of asparagus that is at least 3 years old.  We believe this patch came from seeds from the larger patch.  The stalks are thinner, but are not bad!

Here's one of the larger asparagus stalks that I cut.

This spring we planted some new asparagus roots.  We tried 2 different varieties ~ Jersey King and Mary Washington.  And they both are growing in just a few weeks!  You can see from the pictures below why they say you have to wait several years before you can harvest from new asparagus roots ~ the stalks are so very tiny!!!  I'm holding the big asparagus which I cut so you can compare the baby asparagus stalk to the grandpa stalk; the little stalk is in front of my fingers. It's easy to miss!

Here's another little asparagus stalk.  When I looked around I could see them everywhere, they are just so small.  In quite a few years, we'll have more asparagus than ever!   

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Garden Update

Our garden has started growing!

Squash are easy to grow around here.  We planted numerous types of squash, as it was our best crop last year.  Minds well go with something we know does well.  And we do love squash.

Green beans are on the right.  We planted three different types of green beans ~ they are one of my favorite veggies.

Below are the carrots.  We planted carrot seeds this year.  We've never done this before, but figured we'd give them a try.  They are those little small plants that look like blades of grass.

We were lucky to have asparagus on the property when we moved here.  I don't know how long it's been growing unmanaged out in one of the back fields.  Many large stalks grow, and it has reseeded into a nearby area a few feet away.

This year we planted some new asparagus roots, so we'd have more asparagus.  Below is a pic of one of the stalks from the new roots.  It'll take a few years before the new roots grow as well as the other asparagus roots.  It's covered in morning dew.

I'll leave you with some pics of our back fields which I took this morning after I checked the garden.  The grass is still all wet with dew.  It's time to start mowing the grass again, too.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Good Rooster

I last posted on Thursday about one of my roosters, named Muffin, who attacked me.  I was concerned about his attitude, and didn't want his bad behavior to continue or get any worse.  I was afraid of Muffin after he attacked me, and I certainly don't want to be afraid to go near my chickens.  I've raised the chickens since they were 1 day old, I hate to think one of them could be mean to their human "momma hen".

The good news is that he hasn't attacked me again.  I was wearing a bright orange shirt on the day he attacked me, and I came into "his area" suddenly.  Quite a few hens ran up to greet me, clucking and asking me to pick them up.  I think Muffin was defending his ladies from me, the orange shirt monster.  Below is a pic of Muffin (on the left) on that Thursday, flapping his wings, all full of himself.  Muffin's brother, a rooster named Brownie, is on the right.  Brownie was just trying to get out of the way of Muffin.

Muffin is in the center, giving me the evil eye.  Orange shirt monster better get out of his territory!  Brownie is in the back, watching the scene closely.

The big tough rooster.

I've given Muffin lots of opportunities since then ~ I go out and walk around the chickens often, talking to them, picking up the hens and carrying them around.  But Muffin hasn't tried to attack me again.  This doesn't mean he doesn't have it in him, but he hasn't been outwardly aggressive again.  I've tried to pick him up and carry him around, but he runs from me when I go toward him now.  Maybe now he knows I'm the boss. 
We'll see... 

And I will not wear that orange shirt near him again!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Broody Hens & Attacking Roosters!

Previously I posted about a hen named Zoner becoming broody, wanting babies.  The good news is that she has gotten over her broodiness.  It took about a month during which she sat on a nest box every day, all day.  We removed the eggs from all the chicken nest boxes several times a day so she wasn't encouraged.  We removed Zone from the nest box whenever we could ~ one Saturday I removed her from the nest and threw her out into the yard over a dozen times.  Zone would have stayed on the nest all night, so we started blocking off the nest boxes during the night hours.  During this time Zone stopped laying eggs.  From what I read, broody hens quit laying eggs, they just want to hatch eggs.  So they sit on other hen's eggs.  But now, finally, over a month later, Zone has gotten over being broody.

And Bella has started being broody.

Here's Bella in a nest box.  Bella's a sweetie still ~ she cannot turn down a good neck rub.  We've been throwing Bella out of the nest boxes whenever we can.  She also has stopped laying eggs.  Zoner hasn't yet started laying again, either.  I expect this broodiness will be a routine thing.  I guess at least one chicken or another will be going through it?

This afternoon I went out to visit the chickens, and was promptly attacked by one of the roosters, Muffin.

I have never been attacked like this by one of my roosters.  I didn't like it.  I think Muff was trying to protect his hens.  I had come into the area suddenly and was petting several of the hens who had run up to greet me, and I think I surprised Muff.  Once he started attacking me, I raised my foot to keep him away from me, and I think that made him attack worse.  Then he stopped attacking me, and foolishly I turned my back on him.  He then got a good attack on my leg from behind.  From now on I will never turn my back on him.  He had better get over this mood he's in...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Wine, anyone?

Since the weather here was beautiful this past weekend, we decided to clean out some trash on our property.  It seems in the past people used to dump their trash right on the property, like it was a personal landfill.  We decided we to start the clean up on an area that's not too far away from our house - you cannot see this dumping area from our house, but it is a short walk.

After working on the dump cleanup for 3 days, we had 17 trash bags full.  We will have to continue on the trash pickup when we have time.  We have barely begun the cleanup.

We found hundreds of glass bottles in the "dump"!  Most of them are wine bottles.

And this is just the beginning of the bottle collection.  There's many, many more out there in the woods.  We didn't trash the bottles - we figured we'd save them and see how many we get! 

Who ever dumped here must have really liked their wine! 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter!

Here's a picture of our eggs from yesterday right after we brought them in from the hen house ~ we got 11 chicken eggs and 1 guinea egg.  The guinea egg is on the upper left - the small dark brown egg.

I've been using this little plastic Easter egg basket until I find an egg basket I like.

Today we colored some hard-boiled eggs for Easter.  I wasn't sure if the colors would turn out, since the eggs were light brown to start, but they turned out well.

Happy Easter!!