Monday, February 1, 2010

Drought Tolerant Planting

Because water is at such a premium here--- being on a well in a drought-prone state--- my landscaping efforts focus primarily on efficient water use. Or more accurately, I try to plant flora that's able to get by on little or no water.

On top of that I try to plant stuff my bees will turn into honey. So, I installed a garden yesterday that consisted of False Heather; Rosemary ("Irene," a low-growing bunching version); Lavender (I primarily use French Lavender, a type called "Serenity,"); a type of Aloe we call "Mother-in-Law Tongue; and a couple variety of prickly pear cacti.

The beauty of all this selection is that it's easy to start new plants with cuttings; or in the case of the aloe, just taking some "babies" from a mother plant.

Obviously, the cacti are of no real interest to my bees, but they love the rosemary, lavender and heather. I've got that kind of stuff all over the ranch, consolidated into pockets where I can efficiently water it. On top of that, the chaparral hillsides are erupting with ceonothus blooms, so the bees are getting plenty of nectar. The beauty of SoCal is that spring sometimes starts in February, especially when we get some winter rain. That can mean an early, and abundant, honey crop!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Need Eggs? Add a Rooster!

A busy chicken day yesterday, as I went to a neighboring ranch and picked up a beautiful year-old rooster. I also grabbed three 4-month-old chicks from the feed store (Speckled Sussex). Here's a photo of what they'll look like full-grown...

I'll see if I can get some pix of them at their current age. The chicks are of course getting the crap kicked out of them by the older birds as the pecking order gets established. I acclimated them a little in an enclosure, and I give them a dog carrier to sleep in inside the chicken barn so they're away from the big girls, but there's no avoiding the bullying that happens for awhile until everyone gets used to each other.

As for the rooster: I trimmed his flight feathers prior to putting him in the yard, but evidently not enough. Within five minutes he'd taken off for the hills. I spotted him, and spent the next enjoyable hour chasing him all over, through gulleys and thickets, sliding down hills and climbing up rocks, all to no avail.

I decided to leave it up to a chicken's natural inclination to be around other chickens, especially when it gets dark and it's time to roost. So, I left--- and sure enough, he came around. I actually got him to walk back into the yard, and figured he'd go to bed with the gals.

Nope. He took off again, and spent the night roosting in a scrub oak where I couldn't reach him.

Come morning, he was under the tree, pecking around. I fed the girls, and got his interest. When he came over, a managed to lure him into the yard, and then I pounced on him. I held him while Leah (my wife) tied his legs, and we REALLY clipped his wings this time. I then locked him in the chicken barn for awhile, just to be sure he knew where "home" was. I let him out at the same time I gave everyone a really sumptuous afternoon feed, with old potatoes, lettuce, some cereal, you name it.

This time he stayed. Now, my only problem still left to solve--- as I write this, he's sleeping in one of the egg boxes, in the "egg shed." I was going to move him over into the barn with the girls, but I figured he'd had enough trauma for the weekend.

But the good news is, just above him is our first egg from this flock! Yay! Looks like adding a little testosterone to the dynamics got the girls' juices flowing :-)

PS- Don't know what breed (other than probably "mutt") the rooster is. I'll post a picture here and maybe someone will know...