...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


where's the hummingbird?

I've been seeing hummingbirds come feed on our monarda (aka 'bee balm') early in the mornings
so I got ready with the camera...  Unfortunately through the glass window and with a 25'+ distance, these are the best shots I could get.

Still beautiful, and I wanted to share them here on the blog...

It's like playing Where's Waldo, but I think Where's the Hummingbird is more fun.

You can see throughout the series of photos how industrious they are,
going from flower to flower very systematically until they've had their fill.

Want to play?  
Ready, set, go!


overdue duckling update

I had intended to post regular installments with updates of the ducklings...
But with summer in it's full swing and life overflowing even more than usual,
I've definitely been slacking in my duties as a duckumentarian...

So here goes, in chronological order, duckling development, thus far (to 6 weeks):
They grow up SO FAST!

Their fluff started to turn into feathers:

All along they have been faithful followers...
the three messy stooges, bringing up the rear of our little poultry train. 

They get caught up in doing ducky things,
but never ever want to be left behind.

The other hens are very tolerant of them but once in awhile 
I catch a look of complete bewilderment...  
I imagine in this photo, Brahmie is thinking something along the lines of
"What the duck is going on around here, anyway?"

And sometimes I see their chicken mamma giving them a good talking to:
Listen up, you crazy kids!  There are rules around here! 

  Luckily for the ducks, our property is very wet... 
We dug out a small pond for them and they absolutely adore it!
 Commie has been such a good mamma and never strays far from them...  

At first she kept a very close eye on them while they were swimming, 
but now she has started to go off and forage on her own more 
and seems to trust that the ducks are okay in the water.  

Our friend Betty said her family did a similar thing with chickens raising ducks about 60 years ago, 
but the chicken mother panicked when the ducks went into the water
 and she would squawk and squawk for them to get out.  
Somehow our girl Commie seems to accept that while they're "her" babies, 
she knows that they're different, and she's okay with that...
Jersey, on the other hand, gave up on motherhood after a few weeks into the task.
We're not exactly sure what happened... maybe Commie got possessive and bullied her out of her role, but I'm thinking it's more likely that she just lost interest after realizing that the babies were ducks and not chicks... always splashing about in the water,
being terribly uncivilized and unchicken-like.

Now Jerz is back to hanging out with her best friend Lorpie,
 taking afternoon siestas in the sun and the dirt, and doing whatever she pleases,
whenever she pleases. 

She knows now that motherhood is not for the weak of heart,
and even though her parental rights have been terminated,
Commie allows her supervised visitation with the ducklings on occasion.

And that's that.
Other than that, things have been just ducky:

You've heard of copy-catting, but here's copy-ducking...
Duckie see, duckie do... 
Everything they do, they do together.

They wait for their turn at the feeder after the hens have finished...
One of them always seems to lie down to eat since there's always food all over the deck...
(In a duck's world, the five-second-rule is perpetual...)
They eat so much every day...

They're practically as big as their mother, but they still follow her.

She's been trying to give them lessons about personal space, since they're real space invaders.  

She said, "Imagine you each have your own little pond,
at least as wide as you can stretch your wings... 
That's how much space you need to keep between yourself and others to be polite, most of the time..."
The duckies stare at her blankly, and sometimes, even though she loves them very much,
she makes a run for it when she can, especially if she thinks they'll be distracted long enough so that she can get a little peace and quiet!

Look at those beautiful wings!
They seem to be mostly feathered out now...
It's been crazy fast development, all around...

At about 4 weeks old, it was so exciting to hear the ducklings start to make some new vocalizations beyond their baby 'peeep!peeep!peeep!' sounds.  

They've been trying to make honks and quacks
but theirs sound more like 'bonk' and 'back.'

They're going on pure instinct, because their only role models are ones who cluck and squawk...  
 They're probably a little confused.

I might just have to call my friend Sarah, who is a speech therapist,
 and ask her to come work with our misguided little ducklings 
... poor things don't know a bonk from a honk or a back from a quack!

We can't confidently tell them apart, but some characteristics are starting to emerge that are helpful...  One of the ducks has a bigger patch of white on it's neck.  And one of them struts around a lot and with a more shrill voice, makes a whole bunch of noise, all the time...  
 When we listen carefully, the other two are much more quiet.  
Just a hunch that the noisy strutty one could be a boy...



 This is our first year with hollyhocks in bloom.
They're such a romantic old-time flower.
And let's face it, I'm a romantic old-time kinda girl.

We planted a few last summer, and this is their blooming year.
Whenever flowers have their blooming year I think of them as debutantes in the garden.
Hollyhocks can bloom May-September, so the whole summer is their cotillion!

Love those buds.

And the stunning fractal-like star-shaped sepal 
which shows through the petals beneath the stamen...

 They can get to be 6-8' tall!
They're sturdy, not fussy about soil, but they do love the sun.
They self sow easily.

I think they'd look even better if we had a whole big long row,
so we'll plant some more...

 Looks like the bees love them as much as I do...

 I hear the hummingbirds and butterflies do, too...


harvesting kale seeds

I planted some wild kale mix from The Cook's Garden towards the very end of the summer last year.
It grew enough that we managed to harvest a little before winter 
(it was the sweetest, most tender kale we had ever had!), 
but then winter came and that was that...  boo hoo, kale covered in snow.  

The strains I have are definitely hardy; they overwintered beautifully 
and started growing like gangbusters this spring, 
although the kale never got very leafy -- it mostly got very tall very fast.  

Before I knew it, it had bolted! 
First, some beautiful tender and delicious kale flowers 
(which I forgot to take pictures of, but maybe next year!) and then these amazing seed pods: 

 I gathered a handful from different looking plant stalks so I could save some seed for next season

Saving seeds that you grew in your garden improves the strain because 
the seed has grown and adapted to your particular soil and micro-climate.  
(Not to mention that saving seed saves money.)

 The pods were so juicy and lush.  I spread them out and let them dry for a few days.

 Soon they looked like ethereal ghosts of themselves.

 Once they're dry enough, getting the seed is easy and fun.
There are two sides with seed inside the pod, separated by a thin membrane.

 I found it best to harvest over a bowl, because the more dry the pod is, 
the more the seeds eagerly pop right out at you and all over the place.

You can also let your seed pods dry while still on the stalk...
I did a little bit of both.
I harvested a whole bucket full of pods that I'm letting dry 
so I'll also have a bunch of extra seed.  
The idea is to grow micro-greens in a cold frame,
and to also extend the growing season and try to grow kale earlier and later into the year...

No matter which way you dry, you'll have a nice pile of compost
 plenty of seeds for next year!

I tossed some pods to the chickens to see if they were interested...

They were definitely curious about them, but couldn't quite figure them out.
I'll have to wait and see what happens when these when these freshly harvested pods dry out a little bit more and they can peck them open... 

Kale seeds are about the size of a grain of quinoa, and they loooooove quinoa,
so maybe they'll love kale seeds, too!



Early this morning I was walking down to the mailbox to send out some mail 
and I was in total awe of all the birdsong and bird activity all around me.  

Normally, early in the morning, I'm still trying to wake up.
I'm not a jump out of bed kind of girl.  I have to ease myself awake.
 And my usual method of easing awake is sitting at my computer 
drinking something with a little caffeine.
That's fine and dandy for the colder months of the year,
but why not take coffee outside in the summer?
  Forget the e-mail and web browsing until a bit later... it'll always be there, and none of it is anywhere nearly as important or interesting as what's happening outside.

It's definitely time to change up my summer morning habits.  
Besides, it was so alive outside, 
so brimming and flitting with activity that I was instantly awake!  

Look at what I would have missed if I hadn't gone out with the mail:

After looking through some bird guides, I'm guessing it's a little house wren.
(If you think or know it's something else, please post a comment and let me know!)

She kept diving down to the ground, gathering little twigs or pine needles.
I watched for several minutes.  I tried to keep track of how long it took her each trip, and she seemed to be gone about 20 or so seconds each time.

Then I got to marvel at watching her try to get her wide nest building materials 
in through the little opening.

I thought she was turning around to say to me,
"Hey, what are you looking at?" 
"How about a little help here, please?"

 But all anthropomorphizing aside, I think she was simply changing positions 
so she could angle her things inside the nesting box.
It took a fair amount of finesse.

And out again for more.