Sunday, November 23, 2014

Houdini the Cat Explores

My cat thinks he is a panther and has taken to sleeping in the top of the joshua tree in my front  yard. He is like a sentry watching all the birds and chipmunks below. This morning I let the old cat out to get some fresh air and the new cat was in the mood to play tail tag. The old guy is too frail for those kinds of highjinks so I had to bring him back in.

Houdini is such a lap cat. Feral my ass.

Warming up in the sun

He's growing so fast.

Friday, November 21, 2014

November Morning at Shoebox Ranch

Today I took some time to clean up the yard, hang things up that the wind had blown down, play with the chickens, and teach the new kitten how to weave. He really wants to help with everything or nap in my lap so I can't do anything.

As long as it is pleasant out, I can work on my weaving in the yard. That way I can watch the birds and enjoy their songs. Soon it will be too cold to work on crafts in the yard, so I'm enjoying it while I can.
When I see the  horrible snowstorms New York and Canada are having, I feel so blessed to live here. My friend in New York got 8 feet of snow in one night. I guess that's when you find out if you really love your spouse, because you are going to be stuck indoors a lot.

Two fat hens.

Our whole flock in one photo.

This chicken wanted to be picked up this morning.

Impressionistic Weaving of Autumn in the High Desert

Houdini and I

Tricky to hold a chicken and take your own photo.

Houdini is made out of velvet I think.

Why did the chicken cross the hose?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Building My Outdoor Utopia

Hurry up and get ripe tomato.

Silver Dollar tree for the front yard.
You know I'm new to this whole chicken raising thing. So when the chickens hunkered down for a dust nap, I've seen that before and I wasn't really surprised. But when one red hen started yanking feathers out of the other red hen and eating them, I was a bit taken aback. Then the two black chickens started snacking on feathers too.

Maybe the red one is about to molt and that is how they help out. It seemed that the feathers came out quite easily and didn't seem to hurt her. She hardly seemed to notice. I still found it disturbing. So I googled up some answers. The most common answer is they lack protein. Ours get lots of mealworms so that doesn't seem likely. A few people said the chickens were bored. Ours have full run of a giant yard so I doubt it is boredom. Beats me. Does anyone else have a better answer?

This week I am working in 'Cactus Jack's Garden.' I got the most prickly cactus planted in a hole I dug a long time ago. Today I dug a new hole for the columnar cactus. In one small hole I already dug out about 10 medium and large rocks. My back can only take so much of that so I quit for the day.

There is a sweet spot between the heat of summer and the cold of winter here in the desert so I'm trying to get as much yard work done as I can handle. I just hope the tomatoes ripen before we have a hard freeze.
Happy autumn.

I got a new Silver Dollar eucalyptus tree for the front yard. I can't plant it until I get a tree stake, more potting soil and someone stronger than I am to dig more rocks out of the deep hole. I've wanted one all my life. I just love the leaves. For decades I didn't have my own yard. Technically I'm renting so planting trees here is a bit risky. We hope to buy the place, but lots could happen between now and then. At any rate, I'm living for the moment and planting trees.

In other good news, my bulbs in a container just sprouted. They don't look like ranunculus so they must be the irises.

Cactus Jack's Garden

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Shoebox Ranch Autumn Days

I made another Vlog yesterday about my daily life. I make them for my new account over on Vloggerheads but it fits this blog too so I posted it for my followers.
I loved the way the sun was shining through the comb.

Hens have combs too. They are just smaller than the rooster's comb.

What you lookin' at?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Summer Summer Go Away

I went outside and the heat was oppressive. I was worried about the chickens so I filled up a second water container. All six of them ran to it and started drinking. The other container had plenty of water but it had gotten a little dirty and the chickens were having none of it.

I watered the garden and came in before my head exploded. I checked the weather page and it said 92 degrees and I thought there is no way it's only 92. Three seconds later the page refreshed to 98 with the predicted high of 101. I went out without a headache and came in with one. Now I'm sitting indoors in front of the swamp cooler sipping water and soda.

"Summer, you are through," signed Autumn.

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Garden is Tasty to Bugs

You know it is too windy to knit outside when you start getting sand in your teeth. And it is starting to get dark anyway.

Just when I started making headway with getting hornworms out of the tomatoes, the squash come down with a serious attack of aphids. I know banana peels got rid of the aphids on my roses, so that means a trip to the market tomorrow to get bananas. I just hope I'm not too late. The bright shiny umbrella shaped leaves of the squash are now looking worn out and seem to be shriveling. Aphids suck the very life out of things.  I haven't seen any ladybugs around here either. Maybe they can't take the Mojave heat.

I'm also worried that though the tomatoes are covered with blossoms, they are not setting any fruit. Out of five tomato plants I've only seen one teeny tiny fruit.Maybe I am watering them too much.
Tomato hornworm
It is worth it just for the sunsets.
Fabric For A New Tote Bag
This will be a chicken once I add the embroidery
Fletcher whipped up a great chicken stir-fry including the yellow squash I picked today, so I am eating something I grew and that makes me happy.

The chickens have finished their big bag of grow mash and now have a new bag of laying crumble. Hope they like it.

Happy homesteading.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Solar Toys

One day my friend Lezlee bought me a little solar toy of a frog swinging. Well, I just love the cute little buggers. I hit the jackpot yesterday and found 8 new solar toys at the dollar type store. I got 4 circus ones and 4 flowers.  They sell so fast that I don't usually find more than one or two.  So I bought all 8. Yes, I know it is silly but I'm coming to value my happiness more and more. If something for $8.00 can make me happy over and over again, isn't it a better buy that something that cost me $200 and hardly makes me happy at all?

In other news, the washer is leaking so we need to drag it out of the laundry room and figure out what the deal is. Leaks run up our electric bill, because they keep the well pump running. Plus, no one wants to waste water in the desert in a drought.

This morning 2 large roadrunners came to drink at the water buckets. I never noticed that in the right light, their tails look blue. One of them had white tips on its tail feathers.

It's so hot today, but I really want to work on my washboard and other projects out in the yard. After I worked on the garden I had to come back in and sit in front of the swamp cooler. Maybe I'll sew in the kitchen instead. I need more of fall and spring and less of summer and winter.

The rabbits attacked my succulents again so I dragged more chicken wire over the rocks. There isn't much left of them now. They even pull the ones they don't like out of the ground. I keep replanting them.
I'm sure if they ever got established the rabbits would leave them alone.

My yellow squash is about ready to harvest. One of them looks bumpy and the others look smooth from the same plant, so I wonder if that one got cross pollinated by the ornamental gourds.

I found one more horn worm this morning and tossed it to the chickens. Right now the beats, mescalin and cucumbers have all sprouted.

I think I'm going to have some hummus and chips for lunch. Then back to work.

A Day In The Life At Shoebox Ranch

I'm really trying to follow my bliss, and for some crazy reason that included buying a kazoo on Ebay. Go me. It's been really fun and funny trying to play it. I hope to get a holder for it, so I can  play it along with the washboard that I'm still making.

I also saved the bones from some beef ribs. They are sitting under a basket on an ant hill waiting for the ants to clean them for me. If you've ever heard anyone 'play the bones' this is what they originally came from. I also got a red oak board to make some wooden 'bones'.

I'm currently waging war on the tomato hornworms. Twice a day I study the tomato plants trying to find the menaces. I usually pick off about 4 a day and feed them to the chickens. I wonder if I'm raising tomatoes or worms for the chickens.

Tomato Horn Worm. They strip all the leaves off the stems.
The girls are all grown up now.
The three black chickens are the most dominant. They are always the first ones to the fence when the worms get poked into the cage. Then they all run in circles trying to steal the worms from each other.

Tonight's sunset was like melted butter. And now the moonrise is gorgeous.
Sunset in Lucerne Valley, CA
My cat thinks he is a parrot.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Chain of Events

My front yard drama has had an interesting chain of events. On Sunday we picked up some cracked corn, which the quail love. I hadn't put any out yet, but I did refill the tin can bird feeder with wild bird seed. So this morning I spotted two scrub jays eating out of the can. I know they love corn as well, so I put some out there.

Now I'm sitting by the window and spot some chipmunks stuffing their cheeks with corn. And then I saw something I've never seen before. A roadrunner outside the fence stalking a chipmunk inside the fence. Now I know roadrunners are carnivorous, but I've never seen them hunt. So the roadrunner and the chipmunk were madly dashing back and forth along the fence when the chipmunk did the dumbest thing ever. He went through the fence onto the same side as the roadrunner! And off they ran under the bushes. I have a feeling the roadrunner is now dining on corn stuffed chipmunk. Poor Alvin!

I need a new camera but I tried to get a shot of the scrub jays for you. It's the first time I've seen them this year.
Last night's sunset from my front yard in Lucerne Valley, CA
Scrub Jay
This was the best photo I could get. I need to order a new camera.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Got A Washboard

One of my self-improvement goals is to learn something new every day.

When I was on vacation in Atascadero we went to Atascadero Lake Park and bumped into a vintage car show. They had an old timey band and one lady was playing a washboard with gloves on with thimbles attached to the fingertips. That reignited an old desire in me to someday learn to play a washboard.

I'm trying to remember when I first wanted to do that. It may have been when I saw a street performer named Miss Tilly performing at a juggling convention in the '80's.

Then a few days later we were cruising along Higuera St. in San Luis Obispo, CA when I see out of the corner of my eye a couple of transients; one playing a washboard.  Later that day he walked right by me toting his washboard.  So I figure the universe is trying to tell me something.

So when I got home I went to the Lucerne Market and bought the smaller of their 2 washboards. When I got to the register, an employee behind me with silver hair and a friendly smile asked me if I was going to do laundry by hand. I laughed and said I hadn't even gotten used to using a clothesline yet, so I definitely wasn't going to do laundry. I was going to make a musical instrument.

The cashier smiles and says, "Oh a jug band." And then the first lady bursts into song, singing a couple of old tunes I've never heard before! Priceless.

I already checked at the feed store for a cowbell. They have one but I think I want a smaller one.

I wish I thought to pick up some hardware there. I need to put a strap on the thing and figure out what else I want on there. Since it is a lingerie washboard, I'm tempted to hang a bra on there. I think being a juggler and all, I'm definitely going for the comedy element.

Yes, I'm becoming a corny old bat. Ha. Luckily there are a lot of Youtube videos about making and playing a washboard. I'll keep you posted.
Fairy mushrooms and thyme.
Houseleeks in my new rock garden.

No one around but this froggy to hear me practicing my washboard.
I have the whole Mojave desert to practice in.
My Mexican bird of paradise has new leaves. I just planted it in my Zen Garden.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Must Be My Week For Snakes

It's been another crazy day at the Shoebox Ranch. I was bringing laundry in from the clothesline and the cat was fixated on something by the sink. I had my hands full so I'm unable to look at the floor. I figured he'd cornered a mouse or something. Nope, not a mouse. A snake. So I set everything down as fast as I could and tried to grab the cat. Unfortunately just then the snake headed under the dining room table, which is shoved against the wall in our long and narrow kitchen/dining room. Then the cat is out of reach. The snake hugs the baseboard and disappears behind piles of boxes. I finally get the cat away from the boxes by squirting him with a spray bottle filled with water. I go around behind the boxes and see the snake's tail. Not a rattlesnake thank goodness. Not a gopher snake either. Its creamy yellowish tan.  I grab the tail but it feels like it is breaking in my hand so I let go. I don't know how else to describe it but it went 'crunch' in my hand.  Then I got the cat out from under the table again and threw him in the bathroom and shut the door.  Then I got a hold of the whole snake in the middle somewhere. Bad idea because it's whipping its head around and I don't want to get bitten. I'm trying to steer it into a bucket. No luck there and when I let go it dives back to the baseboards.  It is still back there somewhere. Haven't seen it since and there was no way I could move that huge pile of boxes and no where to stack them if I did. I waited hours for my boyfriend to get off work, but he had other deadlines and things to do.  So at this point the snake is still back there somewhere, unless it escaped while I wasn't looking. Darn, I didn't really want to go to bed knowing there's a snake in the house.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Poor Snakey Snake

We were watching a roadrunner in the front yard when my boyfriend spotted a snake along the fence line. I couldn’t even see it. Between my poor long distance vision and the snake’s natural camouflage, I just couldn’t figure out where it was. So he took his camera out and took photos. It’s a gopher snake about 5’ long. And it was badly tangled in chicken wire. We gave it fifteen minutes to see if it would untangle itself, but then we went in with gloves and wire cutters. After we freed it, it made its way to the nearest creosote bush. 
Gopher Snake


They eat vermin.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Our Six New Laying Hens

I'm happy to report that all the new chickens were alive and well after their first night in the coop. Today Guy continued digging a ditch around the coop so he can bury some wire fencing to keep the former chicken massacre from happening again.

The barred rock and the ameraucana chickens are slightly smaller, and I've noticed the yellow colored ameraucana keeps trying to hide behind the bigger chickens and seems the shyest one of the bunch so far. The barred rock is the bravest. She was the first one to jump out of the coop onto the run.

Keep in mind I'm not an expert and the names were the best guess of the woman working at the feed store. 

Four of the six new pullets.

The light colored Ameraucana tries to hide behind the bigger chickens.
Two black sex links in front. Ameraucana in the back.

Rhode Island Red Pullet
Barred rock pullets don't have their black and white coloring yet.

Black sex links in the front.

Bock Bock Here

Today I visited the Diamond B Feed Store in Lucerne Valley, Ca with a special goal in mind. It was time to pick out six new hens for our backyard coop. I wanted to replace the 4 we lost. Since these were a bit smaller, we decided to get 6 pullets in case some of them didn't make it. The oldest ones are about 5 weeks.

I got 2 Rhode Island Reds, 2 Black Sex Link, 1 Ameracuena and 1 Barred Rock. I brought them home just in time to tuck them into the safety of the coop for the night, so I don't have any photos yet. Our last chickens only lasted 4 days so surely the odds are in our favor this time.