Flowering

Today I went out and got some lovely photos of the early spring blossoms. Warning, this post contains many high-res photos.

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Crocuses of some sort growing alongside our wild garlic

There’s not a whole lot blooming, but there’s some. We’re still a long while away from the violets, dandelions and asters that flood my lawn in late summer and fall.

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One of less than ten dandelions currently in bloom in our lawn

It’s really nice to see all the life starting to creep back into the world, though. And these early flowers can be a lifesaver for bees, especially wild ones.

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Daffodils are considered one of the best early flowers for pollinators.

I even took a few shots of the tree out front of my house. The same one you saw weighed down under snow in my last post. The lovely pink blossoms are just about on their way out. After much digging I have finally identified this mystery tree outside my house as am ornamental plum tree, either a cherry plum or purple leaf plum. Both have edible fruits in the late summer to early fall ideal for making jams. I had NO idea that this was the case, and perhaps I shall have the opportunity to taste them this year. I have my pectin and jelly jars all ready!

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Beautiful pink flowers, already shedding their petals

Also on the list of “things I didn’t know” are these gorgeous pink flowers that produced for me one whole apple last year. I was shocked. When I saw it, I thought it was some sort of bug’s nest hanging on a branch. I have NEVER seen this plant do anything before, but I knew it was in the rose family and given that it never produced a fruit, I assumed it was a rose bush, not a fruit tree. But apparently it’s an APPLE shrub!

apple2Who knew!? Maybe we will get more apples from it some day. I would like to try to graft some branches onto it from other very-early blooming apple trees and see if I can get a real apple crop! I shall be trimming it down aggressively this year, along with the plum tree. They both need a serious pruning.

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Even our Magnolia is in bloom, though it’s flowers aren’t quite so useful. They don’t even feed bees, and the tree is a mess. It’s my least favorite plant on my property.

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It can be hard to photograph in the wind.

Pretty much all of these plants were put in by the people who owned this house before the people who owned this house before us. Apparently they were a couple of old retired ladies who loved to garden. I find myself in need of upping my game. The plants they chose are generally lovely, but I want to grow flowers too! Specifically bee flowers. You may recall some of my previous posts about gardening, especially for bees, wherein I attempted to grow some bee-friendly flowering plants to ultimately end in epic failure as they were dug up by my chickens escaping the confines of their chicken pen.

Well this year, I thought I’d try again. I invested $20 in a mixed shade perennial package from Costco, same as last time. It came with five hostas, five astibles and five crimson star columbines. These are all big bee attractant plants that bloom from early to late summer. And so far, things are going OK.

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My initial investment on day 2

The plants came in plastic bags which I immediately opened, tried to sort them into generally upright positions, and then watered heavily. Recently I repotted them. Since then, the columbines have done squat nothing, they may indeed be dead completely on three of them.

But the astibles and hostas are doing MUCH better!

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The hostas in their new pot this morning

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Two of the astibles, separated and growing nicely.

In addition to these I also purchased a pair of lilac bushes that were similarly sad and pathetic upon arrival. Lilacs are good for butterflies, and sub-par for bees, but they are my favorite flowers, and all pollinators need food, including butterflies.

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Sad lilacs, the day after arrival

They have since perked up significantly and nearly doubled in size.

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Lilacs in their new kitchen-side window home!

And lastly, I also did some homesteading things while I was outside today. I started by pruning and separating some blackberry canes that were starting to overgrow.

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New leaf growth on a blackberry cane

Then I weeded the strawberry bed. The weeds were then tossed right back into the bed, root side up, to produce mulch for the strawberries. It may not look like much but the nine plants we put in last year have multiplied into a couple dozen. Depending on how well they do, some of them might be dug up, washed, and repotted for some vertical gardening I would like to do.

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And with the advent of freshly disturbed mulch, dirt and plant, the chickens attempted to lend a beak to the process.

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Chickens, invading the strawberry bed. The string to designate the area off limits to the dogs means nothing to the chickens.

So they were given a handful of wheat berries that we use to grow fodder on occasion, away from the strawberries, which kept them distracted until nightfall.

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Chickens love snacks

Making today a warm, beautiful, and otherwise rewarding day. I just still wish that the REST of my lawn wasn’t quite a swamp, so I could get right down to gardening. This weather would have been perfect for it!

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The new guard

There have been lots of changes to the cast and crew of this blog over the last year. This update in particular is about the changes to my chicken flock The hens I had when I started this journey are getting older, laying less, and becoming less present now that I have a rooster.

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Will Wheaton, the Ameraucana rooster, standing guard while my last lone Australorp and two of four badly molting golden buffs have a snack.

 

For my birthday last year I received a set of Wheaten Ameraucana hatching eggs. Unfortunately they were poorly packaged, of the 8 received, only four developed and three hatched. Later in the year two of them got taken by a raccoon, including the only hen of the trio. That left me with only a rooster to my name of the handsome blue egg layers I’d hoped to receive… And I was certainly not getting any blue eggs. Luckily, I wanted to keep a rooster to start a line of easter eggers. I spent part of the fall selling hatching eggs cheaply to test fertility and drumming up some good press for my shipping methods. One person was so happy they went and raved about how good of a job I did shipping by making a thread about it on a certain chicken forum with lots of pictures. Another person had 12/14 eggs shipped develop. All around it went well. So far my boy has not brought any complaints upon him…. But I intend to be putting a no-crow collar back on him come spring time when windows will be open. It’s been nearly a year now since he hatched, and a good solid 6 months since he started crowing… But we also got new neighbors last month.

We now have some new birds on the roost, and have a total of 14 birds on the property. Unfortunately, six of those will likely be rotating out sooner than later (mostly my older egg hens). To replace them we have some fancier birds.

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Blue Ameraucana Hen

 

Splash ameraucana hen

Splash ameraucana hen

A set of blue/black/splash Ameraucanas has moved in (the black one not featured here). I was lucky to find these fine specimens of ameraucanas available for a good price. Ameraucanas are a beautiful purebred bird but often get crossbred into Easter Eggers and then sold as Ameraucanas falsely or under a mis-spelled name (ex; Americana, ameracana, etc). For clarification, Ameraucanas always have blue or slate legs, beards and muffs, have a restricted number of colors, one set body type and always lay blue eggs. Anything else is an easter egger, a beautiful cross breed, better suited for home-flocks, likely hardy and possibly laying blue or even green eggs, but not a purebred bird.

Bertha and Betsy, Cornish crosses, 22 weeks old

Bertha and Betsy, Cornish crosses, 22 weeks old

Two Cornish crosses have stayed on from our meat bird run this year… Bertha and Betsy run with the flock, dust bathe with the flock, roost with the flock (on extra-wide and low roosting spots), forage with the flock, and are even being bred by Mr. Wheaton (though he does have some trouble with their size sometimes). I had to throw food on the ground to get them to sit still long enough to photograph. Most of their time is spent being some of the most active birds in the whole flock.

There are three chicks hatched out here on the homestead that are growing to take over some egg laying duties. Two are out of the Australorp (and are black), and one is out of a golden buff (and is buff with black flecks and a black tail). They are nearing full grown and laying age these days, and we expect them to start laying very early in the spring. As it stands, they’re so active that we can hardly get a photograph!

Our most photogenic of birds!

Our most photogenic of birds!

And of course, we have our rooster himself! Being a black wheaten ameraucana, he comes from purebred blue egg layers and is a handsome and cautious bird. He is beautiful, but difficult to photograph as he keeps his distance… A trait I can’t help but approve of in a world where many roosters try to attack any humans who handle the hens. He’s really more of a lover, calling hens out to eat, to roost, to drink, and always being vigilant for predators.

I think that about sums up the current flock. Next cast of characters will be the rabbits! Until then…!