Thursday, June 30, 2011

CupCake Thursday

Today's flavor is carrot cake!
Perfect way to start the weekend early!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Girly Coon

We now have a friendly little mama raccoon who comes up to eat the outside cat's food every afternoon.  We used to call her the "Afternoon Coon".  She has learned that during the day there's cat food outside and it gets picked up in the evening before it gets dark.  So she adjusted her schedule to arrive to dinner when it's still daylight.  She's actually quite friendly, barely runs when we go outside.  She has never been hurt by a human.  Probably never saw another human before.  I could probably reach down and pet her if I dared.  But I don't dare.  I would fall in love with her then. 

I always feel guilty taking away the cat food.  When there is no cat food she looks in the windows, waiting impatiently.  Sometimes she peeps in the backdoor, sometimes she perches in one of the windows on the outside ledge, just to look in.

Bobby the outside cat has befriended the coony girl.  She eats his food, and he stands beside her and watches.  Then I go running outside and attempt to chase her away, but she just stands there and looks at me like I'm a meany.  Finally I shoo her off, and she stands about 20 feet away looking at me, asking why Bobby gets to eat and she doesn't.

Of course I explain to the girly coon that the cat is a domesticated animal, and she's a wild animal.  She has teeth and claws and is able to find her own food to eat out in the wild.  She always tells me she's very hungry, her babies are sapping the life out of her, still nursing even though they're getting big, she's exhausted, and there's nothing good to eat out in the wild.  Why can't she just share Bobby's food? she asks.

I know one day soon she will bring her babies to our door.  And then before we know it there will be too many coons at our back door.  We figured when her babies start showing up we'll have to move them all to another location on the property.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Guinea Keet and Chick Update

All the babies are growing up.
The guinea keets have all been fully integrated into the chicken flock.  The two mother chicken hens still look after them, but the keets are very independent and don't always listen to the mother hens anymore.  The other chickens in the flock don't bother with the babies.  The keets can fly very well.  It's so cute to enter the chicken pen and see all the chickens running to me and all the keets flying to me.

At nighttime the two mama hens take their keets into the nest boxes to sleep - where the chickens lay eggs.  We make sure to have all the eggs picked up before the nestboxes become a playpen for the keets.  The mama hens start putting the keets to bed well before dark, like around 5 pm.  The mothers and keets enter the chicken coop.  Any other chicken gets chased out.  Then the keets fly all over the chicken coop.  The chickens hens can't fly, they just settle down into a nestbox.  The keets fly up onto the chicken roosts, and fly over and finally settle down into the nest boxes.  Some of the keets sleep in their own nestbox, some still sleep with their mama hen. 

We have one chick (a chicken) who's half white leghorn, half amercauna.  He has a large tail and is always strutting his stuff with his tail feathers straight up.  However, he has no sign of a comb.  He is the grandson of our lead rooster, Muffin.  Maybe it's a girl, we'll see!

The Rhode Island Red chicks are by far the friendliest chicks we have.  They are always underfoot and love to be held.  They are very small still, although they eat well.

The Cuckoo Maran chicks are twice as big as the Red chicks.  Sadly, I think we have a couple Cuckoo Maran roosters developing.  At least 2 of them are getting little combs and often are bumping chests already.  Time will tell... 

I could watch the babies all day!
Our next goal is to get the (chicken) chicks and their 2 mother hens integrated into the entire chicken/guinea flock.
Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Eastern Kingsnake

On Tuesday Randy found an Eastern Kingsnake attempting to come in our front door.  Jack the cat, who was inside, was very interested.  Randy caught it and put it in an empty old aquarium until he identified it and I got some photos of it.  When the former feral cat Shadow saw it, she attacked it, attempting to kill it.  She evidently had a run in with a snake when she was wild and knew not to play with snakes, but to take them seriously.

The snake was nasty.  It rattled it's tail when we came near, it attempted to viciously attack and bite us, and it stunk to high heaven.  I'm sure it was scared to death when Randy caught it. 

Kingsnakes are not venomous, they produce a very foul smelling musk when scared, and they eat other snakes.  They are immune to the venom of other local snakes.  Really they are a good snake, as good as snakes can be.  Here's the Wiki page on Kingsnakes:  Our chickens and their eggs are well protected, but the guineas lay eggs in the woods that can attract snakes and other animals.  This snake didn't appear to have any eggs in it's belly.  Randy let it loose a distance from our house by the wood splitting area.  Please don't come back, nasty, smelly snake.  I don't hate snakes, and certainly don't think people should kill them for no reason, but I don't invite them into my front door, either!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cupcake of the Day

Yesterday's cupcake flavor was chocolate with mint icing.  
Like a peppermint patty.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lilly Time

Easter Lilly

Everything has a season.  Now is the time for lillies to bloom. 
Funny how the Easter Lilly blooms the first year you buy it at Eastertime.  Then you plant it outside, and the next year it blooms in mid-June. 

We have a lot of orange Tiger Lillies growing wild around the house, too.
I love lillies whenever they're blooming.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Caught in a Thunderstorm!

We have a little raccoon that come up in the afternoons to check the cat food bowl for leftover food.  She's a young mama coon.  So far she keeps her babies hidden out in the woods.  I can't help but smile at her.  She smiles back at me as she chatters at me.

Friday afternoon we had a sudden thunderstorm that drenched everything, including the little coonie girl.

Is there any more food?

Ha, I found a piece of catfood!

Jack the cat watches the coon girl through the window from inside the safety of the house.  Jack thought it was quite funny to see the raccoon all wet!  He was smiling his cheshire cat smile.  Life is good for Jack.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Swedish Butter Cookies

Saturday I made Swedish Butter Cookies for a friend and neighbor. 
This is one of my fav recipes because it's so very quick and simple.  And yummy!
Cookies don't have to be only for the holidays!

Here's the recipe ~ It's from the Taste of Home Contest Winning Cookbook~
Give it a try and let me know if you like it as much as I do!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Baby Black Vulture

Back in April, I noticed a black vulture family seemed to be nesting on our property.  And now it's confirmed!  We have a Black Vulture couple raising a single baby in an old building on our property.  I love vultures because they help us clean up the property.  They are always flying overhead, scanning for food, and they sun themselves by sitting with their wings open.  They don't bother the guineas at all.  They're not noisy, and they don't seem to socialize with owls or other bad birds that may kill my flock, so I'm cool with them.  Black vultures are good birds.

From Wikipedia:  The Black Vulture inhabits relatively open areas which provide scattered forests or shrublands. With a wingspan of 1.5 m (5 ft) the Black Vulture is a large bird though relatively small for a vulture. It has black plumage, a featherless, grayish-black head and neck, and a short, hooked beak.  it's a scavenger and feeds on carrion.  It finds its meals either by using its keen eyesight or by following other vultures, which possess a keen sense of smell. Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses.  It lays its eggs in caves or hollow trees or on the bare ground, and generally raises two chicks each year, which it feeds by regurgitation.

These are not my vulture babies! For reference only!

This first picture was downloaded off the web and shows what the babies are supposed to look like.  It shows a pair of babies.  For some reason, our vultures only have one baby.

The photos of my baby vulture were taken with a cell phone camera, so they're not the best pictures!  We weren't prepared to take photos, but were in the area where we knew the vultures lived, and then we found a baby!  The baby is in an old fallen down house beside the old barn on our property.  There's a big piece of tin roofing leaning up against the wall, and the baby is tucked up behind the tin.  The first time we saw the baby he was tiny and puffy and very fragile-looking!  The parents stayed close-by and were not happy with us looking at their baby.

Baby Black Vulture

About 2 weeks later we went and visited the baby again.  He had gotten bigger, although he's still a white puff-ball.  One of the parents stayed with him when we first got there.

Baby Black Vulture

Then, to our horror, the parent vulture threw up!  Boy, did it smell!!!

Parent vulture throwing up!

Shortly after barfing, the parent flew up directly overhead us the the baby and kept watch from up there!  I guess she didn't like the smell of her vomit, either!  The smell was just too bad and we quickly left the area before we vomited, too!

After I returned home, I researched why vultures vomit.  I read that if they are scared, they will vomit to make their bodies lighter for quick flight.  I also read that vultures vomit toward a perceived threat and the foul smelling vomit deters most predators, as it did me! 

I'll keep an eye on the little vulture baby growing up on Razzberry Corner and will bring my camera to get better photos to share next time!

Have a Nice Weekend!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hello Giant Leopard Moths!

We suddenly have many Giant Leopard Moths hanging out on our back porch.  We never had them around in the previous years we lived here.  They are nocturnal, only flying at nighttime.  They just sleep there on the back porch during the day.  They are very pretty.

From Wikipedia:

The Giant Leopard Moth or Eyed Tiger Moth (Hypercompe scribonia) is a moth of the family Arctiidae. It is distributed throughout the Southern and Eastern United States from New England to Mexico. The obsolete name Ecpantheria scribonia is still occasionally encountered.

This species has a wingspan of 3 inches (nearly 8 cm). The wings of this moth are bright white with a pattern of neat black blotches, some solid and some hollow. The abdomen is dark blue with orange markings, the male has a narrow yellow line on the sides. Its legs have black and white bands. Adult moths are strictly nocturnal and do not generally fly before nightfall (Fullard & Napoleone 2001).

The caterpillar is of the "Woolly Bear" kind, with a thick coat of black bristles (setae) and red or orange colored bands between its segments which become conspicuous when caterpillar rolls into a ball for defense.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekly Update - Monster Update

This past week has been busy here at Razzberry Corner, as always.  Lots is going on...

The chicks and keets are growing fast, as babies do.  The mama hens still DO NOT like other mama hens or their babies near their own babies.  The mama hens don't mind other birds around their babies, only other mother hens or babies are an issue.  Which is making it very difficult to integrate the 4 sets of mama hens and babies into the flock.

I didn't get a picture of Jade and her 4 Rhode Island Red and 1 White Leghorn chick this week.  They are all doing fine.  The leghorn chick is much bigger than the Rhode Island Reds and I'm concerned it may be a boy.  I don't need another leghorn rooster!   

Cheryl is very defensive and likes to fight, and has taught Jade to fight because their pens are side-by-side.  Now Jade has become a fighter - Jade is a follower, she's just a pullet and is not dominant.  This week I had Jade and Cheryl and all their respective chicks loose in the big chicken pen together and they bother started fighting.  The fight only lasted a minute - I had to separate the 2 hens as they were holding each other's heads in their mouths biting each other and flapping all around at the end of the fight.  When I separated all the chicks, I realized one of the black Cuckoo Maran chicks was all bloody.  Part of it's wing was gone, it had a wound on it's neck, and a huge hole in it's chest.  Yellow organs were coming out of the chest.  It's chest was oozing.  I pushed the insides back into the chick's chest and put a bandaid over the wound to hold it together.  Pieces of organs were on my finger.  I think it was the bird's crop that was hurt.  The chick has been given antibiotics in water from a dropper twice a day since the accident.  I really can't imagine the chick got hurt that bad in the minute it was left unattended in the chicken pen - it may have been injured before.  However, the injured chick is doing great.  The bandaid came off the next day, it's chest has healed, it's wing and neck look normal.  It's just as feisty as the other Cuckoo Marans.  Amazing.  I didn't expect it to make it, but it didn't even realize it was injured.

Cheryl and the Cuckoo Maran chicks

Bella had one injured coral blue keet that was badly injured when it hatched.  It was given antibiotic water from a dropper twice a day until it healed.  He has now totally healed and is doing fine.  It almost died on day 1 of it's life, and quickly was much smaller than the other keets.  But now he's totally normal.  However, Bella has 1 all-white keet that started acting strange, started hobbling around, not acting normal.  We read that keets can have vitamin deficiencies, and started this keet on a drop of vitamin E twice a day, along with twice a day antibiotic water.  Although he's making a major comeback, this white keet is now only half as big as the others and something is still wrong with it.  We're not sure it's going to make it.  If it doesn't make it, it will be the only baby that died out of 12 keets and 9 chicks.
Bella and her 5 guinea keets
Charlotte and her 7 keets have been totally integrated into the flock, although we separate her and her babies to sleep in their own pen.  However, this week they will be roosting with the adult chickens.  The keets may be very small, but they are smart and catch on to things quickly.  They can fly just like a normal wild bird, they are so lightweight I think flying is very easy for them.

Charlotte and her 7 guinea keets
Leggy loves to pose for the camera.  Look at those drumsticks!!

We still have 2 broody hens - Lucy and Ethel.  Yesterday Randy gave Ethel a bath that started out nice and warm, but ended up cold.  He was trying to break her of being broody by cooling her down.  Chickens love baths, but not necessarily cold baths!  The bath didn't break Ethel's broodiness - she was back in a nestbox this morning.

Ethel gets a bath

Coral Blue male guinea
Monster Update! 

We still have 3 adult guineas - 2 coral blue (1 male, 1 female) and 1 white (male).  The monster has moved on and has stopped the homicides!  We still have Andy the scarecrow outside every night, and Andy listens to talk radio on a small handheld radio.  Andy sometimes shows up in different areas of the yard to keep the monster guessing about what's going on.  We really think the monster was a great horned owl.  

After all the sudden murders of all the guineas, the white male guinea was expected to be the leader of the flock, as he was #2 in the flock before Guinea Boy died.  However, the white male went into a great depression after everyone else was killed, and he was not acting normal at all.  We thought he may move away on his own, he was so strange-acting.  But then yesterday he came back to his old self again.  He and the blue guinea were chasing each other all over the yard, and the White Boy gained his dominance back by kicking Blue Boy's butt.  And so the only girl is dating the White Boy again, and Blue Boy was alone all morning today.  The above photo was taken this morning as Blue Boy was hanging out by the chicken coop making eyes at Cheryl and her cuckoo maran chicks.  Cheryl told him if he came any closer she'd show him who was boss.  Cheryl would win that fight.
This morning Bobby the cat came too close to Cheryl.  Bobby was just trying to be friendly to me and was rubbing on my legs, and I was feeding Cheryl and the chicks.
Cheryl won - Bobby knows not to get too close to a chicken again.

Bobby looking at that crazy mama chicken
Have a good week!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Company for Dinner?

I really wish Bobby would talk to me first before he invited his friends over to share his dinner...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chicks and Guinea Keets

Our chicks and keets were a week old last Thursday.  The babies have been staying inside the coop with the mama hens.  We have 4 hens and 4 sets of babies, so the coop has been partitioned off so each mama and baby group has their own section, as they will fight.  The mama hens will fight, that is.  The babies, keets and chicks, all get along fine.  The babies don't know there's a difference between keets and chicks.  Also the babies get confused and respond to any mama hen, not necessarily just their own mama hen.  And some of the mama hens don't like other people's babies and will peck them, so right now we must pay attention to them.  It's like babysitting.

Here's Jade with her 4 Rhode Island Red and 1 White Leghorn chick.

Charlotte and her keets have a window looking out to the chicken pen in their coop section.  All the chickens outside like to check out the babies through the window.  The window is actually a door, but is covered until we are ready for the babies to go outside.

Last week we took each of the mama hens and their respective babies out of their coop area out to the big chicken pen.  All was fine because we only had one mama and her babies outside at a time.  The other chickens were curious, but there were no issues.  The mama hens kicked a few other chicken's butts for coming too close to look, and now everyone knows to keep their distance from the babies.

The keets are scared of the big world outside and all stay close to Mama Bella.

On Saturday we got the bright idea to let all 4 mamas and their babies out at the same time.  Not a good idea!  The babies just need to get a little bigger before I'm ready for that again!  As soon as we let them out, all Bella's keets joined up with Charlotte's keets.  All the keets look similar, we didn't know which belonged to which mama.  So Bella had no babies and started going hysterical.  We knew Bella had 1 white -that's easy, there's only 1 white keet, so we grabbed him from the keet mix and gave him to Bell.  Then we selected the one injured grey keet, which we know belongs to Bell.  Then we just selected 2 more grey and 1 brown keet and gave them to Bell and got her separated onto the other side of the pen.  Then we checked on Jade and her chicks who were on the far side of the pen.  Jade and the family were ok.  Suddenly, there's screaming going on from where Bella was.  Cheryl just kicked Bella's butt for getting to close to Cheryl's chicks, and Bella took off running, abandoning her keets.  The keets joined up with Cheryl's chicks, but Cheryl was attacking the keets.  Cheryl knows she didn't have any keet babies and didn't want the keets hurting her chicks.  I grabbed Cheryl while Randy separated out the keets, who again joined up with Charlotte's keets into a big keet mix.  Charlotte welcomes all the keets back.  Bella started running around like a wild hen screaming.  All Bella's keets know their mama's voice and they were screaming even louder.  But keets don't peep like chicks, they whistle.  Then, to top it off, the adult guineas arrive outside the pen.  They hear the keets screaming whistles, and I guess they recognize their own kind.  The adult guineas start making the same high-pitched whistle call that the keets are making.  It was actually a very beautiful noise, in the midst of the chaos.  All the keets start whistling to the adult guineas.  So sweet, and so sad, knowing we recently lost most of the parent guineas.  After a moment of listening to the guineas, we had to get back to the order at hand.  All the babies had to go back to the proper mama, mama's had to be separated again and let out only one at a time.  It was tough to figure out which keets belonged to Bella and Charlotte- They have 5 and 7 keets each, respectively.  When the keets were with the wrong mother they whistled a distress call.  We had to figure out which ones were whistling and swap them out.  Babysitting is hard work!  I will never have so many mama hens at the same time again - it's too complicated!

Guineas looking in on the keets.  Female is on the left, male on the right.

Bella enjoys a dirt bath!

Have a Nice Week!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chimney Swifts, Blue Skies and Old Trees

Yesterday I noticed a group of Chimney Swifts flying over and around our house.  They were flying close together and making a high-pitched chirping.  I had to get my bird book to identify them, as I had never seen them before.  They were easy to photograph, as they kept making circles over the house.

In flight, this bird looks like a flying cigar with slender curved wings. These birds live on the wing, foraging in flight. They eat flying insects. They usually feed in groups, flying closely together and making a high-pitched chipping noise. Their flight is distinctive: they make rapid angular turns unlike most other birds.  Both the claws and tail bristles are used to cling to rough vertical surfaces.  Swifts are unable to perch or stand upright.

Look for the swifts in these photos.  The clouds and sky were magnificent.

The below photo doesn't have any swifts, but shows on the left the mighty pine tree in which the guineas sleep every night.  It's a very tall and old pine tree, taller than most of the other trees in the area. 

The great horse chestnut tree is on the right.  This is the only horse chestnut tree on the property, believed to have been planted by the settlers who came to this country.    The horse chestnut is not native to this area, and has many medicinal purposes which are very interesting.  Our homesight is the site of the original homstead built in the 1700's.  The former home was destroyed and the current house was built in the 1850s. 

I'm sure we have many other herbs and medicinal plants which were planted long ago, just waiting to be identified!