Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Chrismas & Happy New Year!

Whatever is meaningful.

Whatever is beautiful.

Whatever brings you happiness.

May it be yours this holiday season

and throughout the coming year.

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Meet the New Girls in The Dot House

All the Christmas preparations are done so now we just wait for our guests to arrive. I love this time of year.

Today is a good time to catch up on the latest happenings around the ranch.

I heard that a couple of my young readers are concerned about Buddy living out in the cold. Well, if you think about it, Mother Nature is very wise and she makes sure that creatures that live outside in cold places grow lots of extra hair or fur to keep them warm. Horses grow a thick winter coat to protect them, and so do dogs which they then shed when it begins to get warm again. Buddy has an amazingly thick winter coat and he sleeps in his doghouse on very very cold nights. I have seen him in his house and also the hay in his doghouse has a dent in it where he curls up. The hay on the floor and the small space of the doghouse help Buddy keep warm; and, his coat is so thick and warm that oftentimes he chooses to sleep outside on the plant bedding next to the house probably because his house is too warm for him. So Buddy is fine and is truly thriving and growing into a wonderful pet (and watchdog!).

We took the old hens, both the Dots and the Rhode Island Reds, to market last week because they had quit laying due to their age. We got seven new pullets from our neighbors who had them as show birds at last summers County Fair---and they are beautiful as you will see in the pictures below. We now have one Wyandotte, two Speckled Sussex, two Buff Orphingtons and two additional  Americanas - so along with our six Black Copper Marans, one Cuckoo Marans and four Americanas, we have a beautiful, colorful flock.

The birds merged so peacefully and the Dot House is now relatively quiet with much less bickering than with the old hens. Here is what we got the first day after integrating the new pullets with our remaining flock. I didn't expect to get any eggs for a few days.

Once the old hens were gone, I put a big bowl of food and one of water in the pen while I cleaned The Dot House in preparation for the new residents. When I finished cleaning and went into their pen to reopen their door into the Dot House, I noticed the food bowl was empty! I filled it again and within the hour it was empty again. That tells me the old hens were bullying the young pullets and keeping them from full feed which explains why the egg production was off and we had NO eggs from the young pullets---another lesson learned.

Meet the New Girls in The Dot House...
Speckled Sussex - pretty, huh?, we now have two...

Two lovely Americanas...
Two Buff Orphingtons - big and fluffy... and
supposedly the ScarJo of the chicken world!...

And, one Dot (Wyandotte); the namesake of the flock!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It Looks Like Winter

It's still fall officially but it looks and feels like winter. We had another snow and it has stayed cold so the ground is still white and after a warmer day yesterday the icicles formed on the lean-to and the trees are glistening with ice crystals.

I've begun decorating for Christmas. This year we decided on a small tree that will be a part of the snowman village and focus the holiday attention in one place. I like how it turned out...
Family will be visiting soon so it's time to bake and get all the Christmas goodies ready. Packages have been mailed and it's beginning to feel like Christmas.

Happy Holiday Season,

Saturday, December 3, 2011

First Snow

We woke this morning to snow and I was so happy. It felt much like when I was a child only then it was more wonderful when it happened during the week so we'd have a snow day and NO school! It's a silver day out today with the falling snow and bluish light as the primary color scheme.

When we were out doing chores this morning, it was cold and really beginning to come down. I snapped some pictures to share this lovely day on the ranch.
This is Buddy's first snow. When I opened the drapes this morning, I saw that he was playfully jumping around in the snow, throwing his favorite rope toy in the air, pushing the snow with his nose, eating it, and running around at full speed. That looked like pure JOY to me!

We moved his doghouse to the back of our house since he sleeps near the house most days. His food is in his dog house to keep it dry and he goes there to eat but we haven't yet seen him in it to sleep since he was a really little puppy. He's seven months old now and beginning to get his adult shape with elongation of his face and thickening of his body. His winter coat is so thick and shiny, just beautiful ---I'm sure he's warm enough. His heated water bowl is setup nearby so he's set for the winter.

Buddy rolling around in the snow
I shoveled the sidewalk and he barked madly at the shovel. Everything is new and exciting today.
I opened the chicken door on the Dot House this morning and the chickens began to run out as always but some of those little chicken feet barely touched the snow on the ground and they turned back into the Dot House! It was hilarious. One of the black copper Marans must have wanted to be alone because she stayed outside on the top of the chicken door. I'm sure she'll be back in the house in no time. It's cold outside.
I caught a few more lovely snow shots around the yard I thought you might enjoy...
This is one of the tomato cages being used
to protect a Goldenraintree sapling in front of
the Dot House.
My winter garden chores included planting new saplings from Arbor Day Foundation, mulching them, protecting them with the tomato cage and putting in a steel post to ensure the cage doesn't blow over in the wind or get knocked over by deer. We've seen no deer on our property since Buddy has lived here although I noticed some bedding spots in the tall grass on the north side of the garden that look like deer may have slept there. He was barking in that area quite extensively last night so hopefully he has run them off. They are beautiful to look at but so destructive to gardens, trees etc.

When one renews your membership to Arbor Day Foundation, you are usually offered a number of free tree saplings. We welcome them so that we can plant them here with an eye to the future. Most of them will not be trees of substance while we live here but they will be in the future. We are planting them to replace all the 'weed' trees that form the largest composition of deciduous trees on the ranch. Someday this will be a glorious tree garden with a wonderful healthy variety. You know, you can get trees from the Arbor Day Foundation to plant anywhere in the USA. Check it out.

I participate in Re-tree Nebraska which is a program designed to encourage the citizens to plant a million trees in Nebraska in 10 years. The windbreaks that were planted around the farm places in the early days were mostly one or two varieties at most so if that variety gets diseased the entire windbreak dies. Since that has been happening along with new diseases spreading cross country that are also affecting the city treescape, the Re-Tree Nebraska program was started to help replace those trees but with many different varieties that are suitable in this climate so our tree population in the future will be protected. I am personally so excited about this program that we decided to participate by restocking the trees on the ranch and making sure they have an excellent chance for survival.

And, finally, the wild birds are feasting here today. All the feeders are full and the water is warmed and ice free so it's a great place to come if you are a bird. As you will see in the following pictures, Buddy doesn't bother the birds but sits on the back deck and watches them. They seem to have found a peace between them so he watches and they continue to do their thing.

Buddy watching the birds
Cardinal waiting for feeder
Robins at water; Juncos on ground...see the snow
piling up on feeders and deck railing...
White breasted nuthatch eating the suet
Have a cozy day,