Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blueberry Pie

I love to bake, but usually just don't have the time. 
Since I've been off work for the holidays recently, I've had plenty of time to bake!
For Thanksgiving I baked a homemade blueberry and blackberry pie, and a pumpkin pie. 
Everyone liked the blueberry/blackberry pie better.
So yesterday I made a blueberry pie with crumb topping.

Blueberry Pie
 Anyone want to come by for visit and a piece of pie?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Raccoons Give Thanks

Here's a video of the raccoons on our back porch eating dogfood.  They do enjoy their food. And never do they touch our trash.  I know the video is a little dark, it was taken at nighttime.  I hope you can see it ok!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Razzberry Corner!

As you enjoy your day with family and friends, I thought I'd share some pictures from around here.


Sunrise over backyard

Old black walnut tree


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

National Weather Service Radiosonde Found!

Guess what we found in our woods?  A radiosonde released by the National Weather Service!

First, some history on radiosondes:

For over 60 years, upper air observations have been made by the National Weather Service (NWS) with radiosondes. The radiosonde is a small, expendable instrument package that is suspended below a 2 meter (6 feet) wide balloon filled with hydrogen or helium. As the radiosonde is carried aloft, sensors on the radiosonde measure profiles of pressure, altitude, geographical position (Latitude/Longitude), temperature, relative humidity, wind (both wind speed and wind direction), and cosmic ray readings at high altitude.  The weight of a radiosonde is typically 250 g (8.8 oz). It should also be noted that the average radiosonde is lost and never recovered.

Worldwide there are more than 800 radiosonde launch sites. Most countries share data with the rest of the world through international agreements. In the United States the National Weather Service is tasked with providing timely upper-air observations for use in weather forecasting, severe weather watches and warnings, and atmospheric research. The National Weather Service launches radiosondes from 92 stations in North America and the Pacific Islands twice daily. It also supports the operation of 10 radiosonde sites in the Caribbean.

The radiosonde that we found was suspended by a rope, ranging in a tree.  It had the remains of a small balloon at the end of the rope.

We cut it out of the tree and brought it home for inspection.  It was released by the NWS from Sterling, VA on 9-23-10.

A message on the instrument requested it be returned to the NWS.  A prepaid envelope was inside the box.

The machine had various gauges on it for taking different readings.

We packaged it up and returned it so it can be reused by the NWS.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Clean Coop Day

Wait, wait, what's that?
It's clean straw! 
Could it really be the day?
Chicken coop cleaning day?
How did it happen and I didn't notice!  What was I doing?
I was napping out in the yard and wasn't paying attention!  Darn!

Betty peers into the coop

Yeah - it's a great day!
Who just doesn't love the day the house gets cleaned?

Betty enters and looks around

A clean coop is a big thing to me! It's so exciting! 
It gets me so worked up that I need to go lay an egg!
I especially like to be the first hen to use the clean nestbox.
Ha, I'll show those other hens who's at the top of the pecking order. 
I'll lay the first egg in the clean nestboxes. 
And, I'll get the top row of nestboxes.  I'll get my pick of nests!
Only the cool hens use the top nests, you know!!  And I'm the coolest hen!
Who's that outside?
It's Chloe - I had better hurry and pick my nest before she comes in and tries to claim a top nest! 
I'm smarter than Chloe!

Betty looks at the nests. Chloe is outside thinking of coming in, too.

Left to right, Freckles, Charlotte and Ethel

All the top nests are already taken!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Let the Holiday Baking Begin!

Homemade Blueberry Muffins

I've been out of town again, so I haven't been keeping up with the online friends like I want to. 
But now I'm home to Razzberry Corner again!
The week before I left I started baking - trying out a new recipe I found online before the holidays. 
I made blueberry muffins with cinnamon-sugar streusel on top. 
I made many batches and they were so good I ended up giving them all away!  So I made a batch for us, but ran out of blueberries, so ours had blackberries instead of blueberries - they were just as good!
They are called "To-Die-For Blueberry Muffins" - and I just love them.  They are so easy - takes about 15 minutes to make.  The crumb topping makes them extra special!

Here's a link to the online recipe:


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Flying Squirrel

We went out for a walk in the woods late yesterday.  It was so pretty out and the temperature was in the mid 50's.  Perfect hiking weather.
During the hike, we saw a flying squirrel!
This is the first time I've seen a flying squirrel, so I had to get a picture.  We didn't see him "fly", he just ran up the side of a tree and sat there for us.  He thought he was camouflaged.

Flying squirrels are not capable of sustained flight; instead, they glide between trees.  The direction and speed of the animal in midair is varied by changing the positions of its arms and legs.  This changes the tautness of the patagium, a furry parachute-like membrane that stretches from wrist to ankle. It has a fluffy tail that stabilizes in flight. The tail acts as an adjunct airfoil, working as an air brake before landing on a tree trunk.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Guinea Update

Since the chicken hawk attack on Friday, the guinea flock has not wandered very far.  They've stayed very close to the bushes where they hid during the attack.  They are all there, the missing one is now back with the flock.  By this afternoon, we put out some chicken food for them, as they were very hungry because they weren't wandering and looking for food.  I assume they haven't forgotten the hawks.

Guineas in their overgrown bushes.  You can see one starting to emerge in the right bush

Their safety bushes are right beside the chicken coop.  They are some overgrown boxwoods.  In the midst of the bushes I found some light colored guinea feathers that somehow got there during or since the hawk attack.

Feathers found in the bushes
The guineas have dug ten little hollowed out areas in the soft earth beside the boxwoods, one for each bird.  They love digging and rolling in the dirt, just like chickens.  The afternoon sun hits this area and the birds like to sunbathe in the dirt.  In the center in this picture is the one all white guinea.  We think she is a female, based on her call.  She is ALWAYS beside Boy Guinea.  Rarely is she not right beside him.  Girl Guinea doesn't seem to mind her at all, despite the fact that White Guinea is moving in on her man.  Boy Guinea is the dark spotted one on the right, and Girl Guinea is the dark one on the left. 

Guineas digging in the dirt

Guineas hanging by boxwood bushes
Today Girl Guinea layed her daily egg beside the boxwood bushes, instead of going to the nest she previous made.  We have not seen any hawks in the past day, we've been watching for them now, too, just like the guineas are.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chicken Hawk Attack!

This morning I was upstairs in the house when I heard the guineas screaming.  They always scream, no big deal.  If the wind blows a leaf up off the ground near them, they scream.  If we move suddenly around them, they scream.  I hardly notice their screams anymore.  They "cry wolf" all the time over nothing.

But this morning, the roosters started screaming, too.  Uh oh.  There's wasn't a scream, but an alert noise.  I've always called it a rooster "horn noise".  It goes "Honk! Honk!" And the roosters' cries were as loud as the guineas' screams. Uh oh!  Emergency!  Our roosters never "cry wolf" when there's not something going down.

Redtail hawk picture from Wikipedia

I came running downstairs and met Randy by the front door. He was in the kitchen and heard the screams and was heading out. We ran outside, heard all the screams from the guineas, but no guineas were in sight!  As we ran towards the noise we saw two huge red-tailed hawks right on top of a group of bushes.  They are commonly called chicken hawks. They both saw us and reluctantly flew away, across the open field.  I did not get any pictures of them.

Here's the Wikipedia page on Red-Tailed hawks:

The guineas were all hiding under bushes below where the hawks were, still screaming their guinea screams.  They refused to leave the safety of the bushes.  They were quite upset.  I counted only 7 light colored guineas and the 2 dark ones.  We have 8 and 2, not 7 and 2.  One of the light ones may be missing, or it may have been hiding.  I hope it was just hiding.  The guineas have spent the last few hours after the hawks left near the bushes.  They will not go out in the open now.  Better safe than sorry.  The guineas' feathers were all flat during the attack, they looked so small.   I guess the male guineas don't fight during an attack, their instinct is to hide.  They flatten their feathers to look smaller, I guess.

Immediately after the attack I checked the chickens.  They were totally safe, as their pen now has a roof.  But they don't know they are safe.  The hens were all hiding under bushes in the pen.  The roosters were standing out in the open, feathers fluffed up making them appear huge, ready to attack if a hawk came near.  Roosters are supposed to attract the predator towards them and fight to save the flock, giving their life if they have to, while the hens are supposed to hide.  Good boys.  I love roosters, they are so brave for their flock.  The roosters stopped their "horn" noises when I showed up.  When the hens saw me they all came running to me, forgetting about the possible attack, looking for treats.  The roosters still looked to the air, ready to fight.

Stay safe, guinea flock!   

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Girl Guinea's Secret!

Girl Guinea has a secret!
And she's not going to tell!
The other guineas know, but they wont say a word!
Boy Guinea sings about the secret, but only the guineas hear.
Hush, now, don't don't talk in front of the chickens.  They have loose lips.
If the chickens knew, you know they'd tell the humans, and the secret would be gone!!
You know those chickens, they can't hold onto anything. 

Girl Guinea smirking at me today
Notice how the other guineas respect Girl Guinea more now.  She has become the flock leader.  She's the dark one right out in front.  Boy Guinea lets her take charge!  Everyone follows her lead.
They know about her secret.

The guinea flock today
This morning we walked out by the brush pile.  The one that's near the ice house, which is near our back yard.  The Guineas spend a lot of time in the mornings near this brush pile.

Brush pile
And to our amazement, what did we see in the high grass?

Fifteen Girl Guinea eggs!!
We found a Girl Guinea nest!

Girl Guinea eggs
It appears she's been laying out here ever since we found her last egg on October 22 (19 days ago). 
She used to lay about one egg/day.  15 eggs in 19 days would be about right for her.  It also appears she's learned how to lay eggs without weak spot in them, like she used to lay.

Too bad it's been going down below freezing at nighttime! 
In the spring when the temps are warmer we'll have to let her hatch some guinea keets!!!

Sadly, I collected her eggs today.  I'm going to leave 2 in the nest to encourage her to lay in the nest.  I'll have to mark them.  I don't want to leave an entire nest of eggs for the raccoons to find.  And I don't want a nest of rotten eggs by my backyard!  I'm surprised the coons haven't found these eggs in the past 2 weeks, anyway!

Girl Guinea, I wont tell your little secret. 
It's just between us!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kitty Love

Yesterday I was home from work and got to watch my two cats as they lounged around all day. 
They do love each other so... 
It started out that Jack climbed into his window seat and took a bath in the sun.

Next thing, Shadow was sleeping beside Jack.  She was actually laying on his legs and tail.

They give each other a sleepy look.
"I love you, Shad" Jack says.
"I love you, too, Jack"

Then they are spooning, his tail wrapped around her as they sleep.

Next thing, he starts cleaning her head.

She's loving it.

That's a happy Shadow!

Then they go back to sleep, his tail still hugging her.

Jack and Shad were not raised together at all, they were both strays that we picked up along the way. 
But they were meant for each other.  I have never known two cats who get along as well and Jack and Shadow.  

Monday, November 8, 2010

Peregrine Falcon Feather?

Sunday morning we found an odd feather out by the chicken pen.  The chickens are now all secure with the roof on their pen, so I don't have worry about an owl or a hawk getting one of them.  And it looks like we got them safe in the nick of time!

feather found outside chicken pen
  At first we thought this feather must belong to Boy Guinea, but he has round spots on his feathers, not stripes.  Then we thought a great horned owl, we have lots of them.  Or maybe a barred owl.  But after researching them, it just doesn't look like their feathers.  Maybe a red-tailed hawk?  Nope, not that, either.

After more research, it looks like a Peregrine Falcon feather.  Here's a link to Google images for Peregrine Falcon feather images:

I'm not positive, but the peregrine falcon just looked the closest.  And then I researched the peregrine falcon - wow!  I'm not sure I want that bird around here!

From Wikipedia:
The Peregrine is renowned for its speed, reaching speeds of over 320 km/h (200 mph) during its characteristic hunting stoop, making it one of the fastest creatures on the planet.  It's wingspan is 31–47 inches, making it a large bird.  While its diet consists almost exclusively of medium-sized birds, the Peregrine will occasionally hunt small mammals, small reptiles or even insects.

peregrine falcon picture found online

My chickens are small to medium sized birds!  I'm so glad we got the roof on the chicken pen when we did.  Just a few days after we completed it, a monster came to get some chicken dinner.  His plan was foiled, guess he had to eat some insects that night! 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jerry the Barn Cat

Jerry, the outside cat, still will not let us pet him, will not come near us, will not come into the house.  We feed him every day.  He only will come within about five feet of us when he's getting fed.  He was here when we moved here two and a half years ago.  He's a stubborn tomcat.  He must have been abused to hate people so much. 

Shadow, who's currently our indoor black cat, used to be outside with Jerry, but she was tamable.  But she truly hated it outside during the cold winter.  She fell in love with Jack, the indoor orange cat, through the screen door and windows, and finally one cold morning she entered into our house on her own free will.  And she never looks back, she loves being inside.  And she still loves Jack. 
(Shad loved Jerry, too - she loves all cats, she's not picky.  She's still learning to trust humans. 
Luckily she was fixed already or she would have had several litters of kittens - she was always snuggling with Jerry out in the bushes!  Jerry thought she was an annoying needy female who interrupted his hunting and followed him everywhere!  He was glad she left him for Jack.)   

Jerry with breakfast this morning

I sometimes give Jerry his favorite treat, milk.  Some cats like milk, some don't.  Jerry loves it.  Jack will not touch it.  Shadow likes it.  Now that it's getting so cold outside, I warm Jerry's milk in the microwave.  Randy thinks I'm crazy.  I just like to make Jerry a little warm inside on these bitter cold mornings.  I always wait till he eats most of his dry food before giving Jerry the warm milk, otherwise he'll fill up on the milk and will not eat the dry food.  Randy seriously thinks I'm nuts for spoiling the barn cat!  Most days I'm already gone to work when Jerry comes up for food, so I don't get the opportunity to spoil him much.

Jerry gets some warm milk

Shad and Jack watch Jerry thru the window

Jerry sometimes brings us gifts.  Sometimes his gifts are birds or mice, sometimes small snakes, whatever he catches.  This morning we found a dead sparrow out on the front porch where Jerry eats.  He thinks we appreciate his gifts.  Ummm, Thank you, Jerry!

Dead sparrow

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Current Events

We've been very busy lately, dealing with the curves life throws at us.  Autumn has hit us with full force.  Winter is before us, Thanksgiving will soon be here.  And then Christmas.  Just yesterday it seems I was in skirts and sandals, enjoying the summertime... What happened?

Squirrel eating a walnut

  We are planning a trip out to Oregon possibly next week to deal with some family issues.  We cannot take the amount of time we wanted to take out there, it's going to be a rushed trip just to do what needs to be accomplished.  I hate vacations like that.  I don't get alot of time away from work, so any time away I consider a vacation.  The week after next I will be away for work.  Then the following week is Thanksgiving!  Time flies!

The chicken pen fencing from last year when we were building the pen

But I figured I'd quickly post about what's been going on lately with us... Let's see, where to begin... A year ago we put up the chicken fence, fencing in a large area for the chickens to wander, but still keeping them safe from foxes and raccoons. But we never made a ceiling for it. Quickly we learned that raccoons can easily climb a fence to get to chicken food. So the chicken food had to be brought in every night. And every night we still had to go out and close the little chicken door to keep the coons out of the coop at night. And we'd inventory the chickens at that time, too, as they roosted.

So, this past week Randy finished the chicken fence by adding a fence ceiling to it.  Now no predators can come in, and the chickens can't get out, either.  This means we don't need to bring in the chicken feeder at night, and we don't have to go out every evening and every morning to close and open the little chicken door.  Wow, now maybe we can sleep in past dawn!!!

The guineas hate the chicken pen ceiling.  Now they cannot fly in and out of the chicken pen.  They are totally separated from the chickens.  I sometimes bring the chicken feeder out of the pen in the evenings still for them.  They love to eat chicken food.  I just have to put it away before dark to keep the critters out of it.  We still give the guineas treats of cracked corn, which they love.  They travel all over eating bugs and grasses.  I have noticed a marked improvement in the number of bugs on the property since they've started free-ranging.  I have not had any ticks on me at all recently after walking through the fields or in the woods near our house.  Good job, guineas!  But I do worry about the guineas being out in the cold all the time... 


We've started seriously using our kitchen woodstove as the temps have dropped down into the 30's and 40's here in MD. We have oil heat for the house, but try to keep the thermostat turned down to save on the oil costs. The woostove has a blower and it really helps to heat the downstairs. Randy's been keeping wood cut and hauling it up to the porch so it's handy to grab for the stove. Luckily we have a never-ending supply of trees for firewood!

Shadow and Jackie

I'll guess I'll close this post with a picture of our two cats, Shadow and Jack. It's not the best picture, but I figured I'd post it anyway, as I don't post many pictures of the cats. They are the best of friends. Here they are playing their favorite game of "hand". First one of them puts a hand on the other. Then it becomes a grab, then a "hug". They continually chase each other through the house tackling each other, playing like kittens, even though they both are several years old.

Happy Autumn!