Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ducks first trip outside

Sorry I'm a little behind with the posting! This is a 1 minute or so video taken of the ducks first trip outside, they are a little less than a week old in this. Since this video, I have been taking them out once or twice a day and they're starting to catch on to the "going back inside" part of the deal and will frequently follow me to the door and then either just sit down, or mill around just outside the door and I have to catch each one of them-- which is getting harder and harder to do, it's pretty funny for now, I'm betting the humor will wear off quick though and I'll have to find a new solution. I'd like to just move them outside permanently, but we're having some 108 degree weather all this week...

Also, Jasper has finally flown away. We see him on the wires around the house from time to time, but he's not interested in coming down. It makes me kind of sad that he's not going to ride around on my shoulder anymore, but hopefully this newfound instinct will keep him safe from predators.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A trio of ducklings!!

Today has been an exciting bird-filled day. This is what I woke up to this morning:
Duckling #3!

My husband and I have been trying to encourage Jasper to fly away and make friends with other doves (well, really my husband more than myself). So we leave his cage door open pretty often, and usually he just stays in there and does his little Jasper things. Today however I noticed when I was doing some morning chores that he wasn't in his cage. I looked around the yard for him and I didn't see him so I went inside and got ready to go out to my studio and paint (it's a converted detached garage in the backyard). I go in to start working and look who showed up early for work!
Jasper gets a day job
I had left the studio door open and he had just flown on in there and was waiting for me. I keep the ducklings in there, so they can be in a climate-controlled area where there are no cats to harrass them. Here's Jasper watching over his new friends. (The baby duckling is being separated with the wire mesh while she learns to walk a little better so she doesn't get steamrolled by the other two)

And here's a picture of all three after the smallest one was a little better at walking, as you can see, they don't hold still very well.
Zooming ducklings!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

and then there were two!

Yesterday our second duckling was born. This one took its sweet time coming out of the shell, no more busting through the egg like the first one. The two are now great buddies and are having a good time making a mess together. I tried to take some pictures, but they're all blurry because they're always running around.

There is still one egg of the original four in the incubator (one egg had a duckling in it that died in the shell). I am not sure if the last one will hatch or not. I will wait patiently which is very hard to do.

I don't know what to name them yet because I don't know if they're boys or girls.

Jasper has been pretty curious about the ducklings, he likes to sit on the edge of their brooder box and watch the craziness.

I'll get some pictures soon!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A duckling has hatched!!

The first hatch from the incubator as well as my first duck was born this morning around 11am! It stayed just "pipped" for about 18 hours and then within a relatively short amount of time it busted out like Mr. Kool-Aid. Here are the pictures!
The Pip!

The pip gets a little bigger

Breaking the shell

Beginning to hatch



Wet duckling in the incubator

Starting to dry a little

Into the Brooder

One cute 6 hour old duckling!

This duckling was business from the word go, he/she busted out of the egg didn't stop to rest and tried to explore the incubator before she realized that she needed to learn to walk first. From what I've read it's best to leave the ducklings in the incubator for about 12 hours after they hatch, but this one only made it four before her propensity towards egg kickball (even after I set up dividers that no 3 hour old duck should be able to get around) got her a one way ticket to a separate brooder box. She's a great little duckling so far, chipper and friendly.
Another egg pipped this morning, I'm waiting on a hatch! The other two eggs don't seem quite as vigorous but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for them too.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Small update

I apologize for the lack of posts over the last week. It's been filled with hot weather and yardwork for the most part. There's nothing fun to post about removing bermuda grass and the million layers of plastic all the people that lived in the house before me put into the ground.
I've also been quite the nervous nellie about the duck eggs in the incubator. I get up at least twice during the night to check their humidity and temperature. They are scheduled to hatch this weekend. All four have shown movement when I've candled them over the last few days, but I know it's not uncommon for birds to pip (break a hole in the shell) and then die (or even never make it to the pip stage) so I don't want to get my hopes up too high.
Jasper still seems very excited to see us, I carry him around with me when I'm doing outside chores or yardwork and sometimes just to visit with him. He's been flying away for a few hours and then he comes right back to where we are if we're outside, or if we aren't he just sits outside and waits for us and peeps until we go get him. He's turned out to be a truly amazing little backyard friend.

If I get any exciting action in the incubator, I will be documenting all of it as best I can. Hopefully there will be some picture posts coming soon!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Jasper addendum

As soon as I finished typing that post, I left to go run some errands and as soon as I walked out the back door, I heard his cute little peep! He was sitting on the wall that he flew away from about 3 or 4 hours ago. I know it won't be long before he leaves for good, but I am very happy to have my little friend back for a little while. :)

Jasper flies away! and ducks in the incubator

This morning I had Jasper out with me like usual and he sat around watching me do yardwork for a few hours sometimes on my shoulder, sometimes on a fence post. Later on, I got him out again, and he flew up onto our wall and sat there and watched me work for about 15 minutes and then he just flew off. I couldn't see where he went and I looked around for him for awhile, but I guess he figured it was time to go. I'm really going to miss the little guy, but I'm glad we were able to raise him successfully.

In other big news, there are four khaki campbell eggs in the incubator. A family with ducks had one that went broody and was sitting on the nest for a little over two weeks and then decided she was done with that. There were four viable ones out of the seven on the nest so I went and got them and put them in the incubator. Between the long car ride and all the temperature and humidity fluctuations over that 20 hours, I don't have real high hopes for them, but they're in the incubator now and the temp and humidity seems to be stable. If the eggs are still alive, the expected hatch date should be in just over a week.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Planting in 110+ degrees

It seems strange to be planting things right now when everything else is wilting and having a hard time staying alive. We've had a heat wave this week, so it's been 112-115 with humidity. Hooray. Recently on a trip to Native Seed/Search in Tucson I picked up a whole bunch of native seeds, many of which are supposed to be planted during the monsoon, which is now. Theoretically rain (and big winds) will come, but maybe the rain forgot us this year.

I had gotten these seeds for my front yard native garden which I'm currently working on. I'm removing several island hills of planted (not by me) bermuda grass amidst a sea of big gravel and removing the plastic underneath the gravel. I thought that gravel part would be a little labor intensive but if we plugged away at it, it would get done, as opposed to the Bermuda which will be a several year affair. We got done with moving the gravel and removing the top layer of plastic in most parts of the yard, only to find another layer of gravel and another layer of plastic. This wasn't all bad, as I like this gravel better (it's smaller). However, I'm having a wall built to surround the garden and the wall builders found a THIRD layer of plastic when they were digging. Great. Three layers? Really? Who does that??! Anyway, I can tell it's going to be at least winter season before I'll be able to get planting out front so I started planting squash and black-eyed peas in the backyard.

The squash is Magdalena big cheese which look like funny pumpkins.

Right now it looks like this:
Magdalena Big Cheese Squash Sprouting

The second thing I planted are called Bisbee Red Black-eyed Peas, which will give me these:
Bisbee Red black-eyed peas
I planted them amongst my nearly empty corn stalks. The corn failed this year as the pollen came out just in the middle of a heat wave of 115 degrees.

I hope we get some funny pumpkins! I love plants that make unpredictable fruit. I will save the black-eyed peas for New Years, so we can have a homegrown lucky lunch.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

More canning-- this time vanilla pears, and of course, Jasper

A pyramid of pears

I adjusted a recipe for canning pears to make them vanilla pears. I was pleasantly surprised how they turned out. I thought that because of the long (25 minute) processing time, the pears might get mushy, fortunately they didn't. Here is my recipe:

About 8 pounds of pears
4 tbs vanilla
4.5 cups water
2/3 cup sugar

Peel, core and quarter the pears (a melon baller works very well to core them). Stir together the water, sugar and vanilla in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the pears and boil them in the vanilla syrup for 5 minutes. Pack the jars with pears, using tongs and then pour the hot syrup over the pears leaving 1/2" headspace. Process canned pears for 25 minutes (20 minutes if your altitude is below 1,000 feet)
Mix any remaining syrup with seltzer water for an Italian soda. :)
Yield: 6 pints.

Jasper began flying last night. :) My husband opened his cage and Jasper gave him some funny looks and flew up onto his back, and later onto his head. This morning when I went out to feed him he flew out of his cage and onto my lap peeping for food. Two feet seems to be his current range. I think tomorrow we will move him to the large enclosed aviary that was built for the new chickens coming in the fall. This way he will have plenty of room to practice flying and we can wean him before releasing him. I am afraid though that after all these car rides and hand feeding that he may not be able to be released. I'd hate to send him on his way and have him trying to make friends with things that would like to eat him.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pickles! (and a brief Jasper update)

I made pickles!

I made 8 pints of garlic dill pickles. Here is the recipe I followed:

About 6 lbs of cucumbers cut up
4 cups white vinegar
4 cups water
4 tbs pickling salt (plain salt without iodine or preservative/anti-caking agents)
8 tsp dried dill
8 big cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.

1. Combine vinegar, water and salt in a pot, bring to a boil.
2. Put equal parts of dill and garlic in each jar. Pack in sliced cucumbers.
3. Pour boiling vinegar solution over cucumbers in each jar, leaving 1/2" room of headspace. (You will probably have a little liquid left over)
4. Process in a boiling water canner for 10-12 minutes.

I opened a jar that night for my husband and I to try and they tasted like Aunt Bee's Kerosene Cucumbers, I was pretty disappointed, but put them back into the fridge. The next night I gave them another try and they were much better. I guess they need to rest for 48 hours or so before they taste like pickles and not vinegar bombs.

From these dill pickles I decided to make fire and ice pickles. Apparently to make those, most people just buy store pickles and go from there, but since I had 8 pints, I wanted to use my own. I found some recipes online, most of which used a bunch of tabasco, but not much actual hot pepper, and I thought it tasted a little too sweet-- like pepper jelly with pickles. After experimenting and adjusting here is the recipe I ended up with:

1 pint dill pickles
1 cup sugar
1 tsp dried red peppers
a splash of tabasco

Drain the dill pickles, and put them in a bowl. Add the 1 cup sugar (I use a tiny bit less than a cup) peppers and tabasco, and stir it up. Let this mixture sit on the counter for 2 hours and the sugar clumps will have magically turned to liquid. Put your pickles (and the liquid) back into their original jar and refrigerate.

Note: If you leave the pickles on the counter for much longer than the 2 hours, they will shrivel up, they will still taste good, they just look like old wrinkly pickle prunes.

Just before bed a few nights ago
Also Jasper the dove is still doing well. We had a trip to my parents house planned for a long time, and since Jasper needs to be fed every 2-3 hours, he got to go on a vacation with us (along with the 2 hour each way car ride). He peeped a lot at first, but then went to sleep in his cage in the back of the car. Here's a little picture of him. I have learned some things that make feeding him much easier, I will post all about adventures with rearing Jasper on a later date.
Jasper this morning just before eating