Sunday, March 27, 2011

Aphids eating my Brussel Sprouts? I don't think so!

Oh no! I was inspecting my brussels sprouts today, wondering when they would start shooting out the brussels, when I saw this:

Almost all of my about 20 plants must have been infested by these pests!

Aphids eating my brussel sprouts? I don't think so!

While I did not want to bring out the big guns (insecticides and such), I was also not willing to watch these monsters munch away. I thought about ladybugs briefly but then decided that I need those mid- to longterm while a faster remedy was needed right here right now.

Here is what I did:

In a plastic bowl, I poured some baby oil, added dish soap and luke warm water. Then I sponged each single leaf inside and out with this concoction. This mixture ensures that the aphids cannot hold on to the leaf anymore and most probably it will also suffocates them. I especially made sure to drizzle a few drops into the centre of each plant where the youngest and most vulnerable leaves are located because these are most yummy for aphids and that is also where I want the plant to start shooting out the brussels some time soon.

Then I watered the brussels to wash away / dilute the concoction.

And here is my aphids graveyard. And NO, I don't regret a single killing.

And now, I am buying ladybugs!

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis
55 AD - 138 AD

Friday, March 25, 2011

The hatch is on!

We had set 16 fertile eggs to hatch in a still air incubator. Mostly rare breeds but also a few Rhode Island Reds.

A lot of work was involved: checking temperature and humidity constantly as well as turning these eggs at least three times a day. The temperature had to be 101.5F measured about one inch above the eggs and humidity had to be between 40 and 50%. To make sure, we worked with THREE different thermometers!

And the turning is a science in itself: the eggs rest with the small side on the ground with the big top leaning to one side. So, when you turn, you technically only move them from leaning to the right to leaning to the left. You must wash your hands before you touch these eggs because bacteria transmits through the shell and may kill the embryo.

After 18 days of this fun, we stopped stop turning but increased humidity to 70% and then prayed that on day 21 anything happens. Apparently if you hatch 50% of your eggs with this method, you did a good job. Which reminds me that so far I have only hatched one out of all my millions of eggs.

Anywho, Tuesday was our day 18. Stop turning. Check. But I was only able to get humidity up to 60% all through Wednesday. Then Roberto got it right up to 80%. Argh! Not easy! Eventually it dropped to 70%.

Because we had three thermometers in the bator, some of them pretty big thingies, I wondered whether the chicks - while hatching - may get injured from these instruments. So we took them out. We are 'blind' now.

All throughout these three weeks, the temperature had been changing. Too cold. Too hot. Apparently too cold is not so bad as the chicks then may only hatch later but too hot... well, that will 'cook' the embryos.

Just when I was starting to consider the fact that we indeed may have cooked all our eggs in the incubator, there it is: A tiny crack in one of the shells. And every once in a while you hear a little 'peep' and see some pushing from the inside.

Needless to say: We are eggstatic!!

Of course the hatchling is a Rhode Island chick. Those were the eggs that Roberto initially did not want to set for hatching since the birds are 'too common' and loud. When I insisted, my argument was, "What if they are the only ones hatching?" I really hope, some more will hatch, though ...

Anyhow, it is quite the job for these little feather balls to get out and that it can take several hours. So we are expecting not to see a whole lot happening for a while even though there will be a tremendous amount of action inside each shell. Or so I hope.

And as I am typing this, one chicken is hatching .... a Black Sumatra baby ... please check back in later ... Aurelia and I are moving infront of the bator. And we won't leave for a looong while. Ahh, soo egg-citing ...

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis
55 AD - 138 AD

Lame Duck

When I opened their pen yesterday morning to let our duckies out, Ms Big was not moving. So, I picked her up to check on her. When I put her on the ground, she was limping, spreading her still not fully feathered wings for balance assist and hopping on one leg. It was a truely heart breaking sight.

She was eating and drinking and seems okay otherwise but could not stand on her leg or walk. And did I mention yet that she was screaming? Loudly? Yes, something was wrong with my Big.

Was it broken? And what do you do with a lame duck?

Instinctively, I put her in the pond to have her use her leg. Thank goodness, she swam. She swam and splashed and noone would even imagine, anything was wrong with her.

It was when she got out of the water, that she sat down again and refused to move.

When I texted Roberto, he responded, "She is too fat!" Well, nice! Which BTW she is not!

When Roberto came home last night, he was in shock as well to see his little feathered girlfriend and after he treated her Osteopathically, we put Big back in heir pen to sleep.

Today in the morning, Big was able to put weight on her leg again. She is still not walking but I keep putting her in the pond to strengthen her leg.

Ms. Little is such a great sister. All the time, she keeps Ms Big company. Ah, sisterhood!

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis
55 AD - 138 AD

Sunday, March 20, 2011


With Easter being around the corner, I was thinking of some crafty decoration, using the things I have.

And I have loads of yarn and a bunch of plastic filler eggs in various colors. Hmm...

Well, here is what I came up with: I Christo-style crochet-covered a few of these eggs.

And here is how I did it:

Row 1: Cast on 8 and close to a ring.

Row 2: Cast 3, double-crochet one. *Cast 3, double-crochet 2*. Repeat from * to *. So, you are double-crocheting 2 into each cast from the previous row.

Next, cast 3. * Onto the 3 casts from the previous row, single-crochet one, one and a half crochet one, double crochet one, cast 2, double crochet one, one and a half crochet one, crochet one*. Repeat from * to *.

Then, Cast 7 and single-crochet one on the 2 casts from the previous row. Repeat.

Cast 1, * onto the 7 casts from previous row: single-crochet 3, cast 2 and single-crochet 3*. Repeat from * to *. It starts getting narrower now.

Cast 3, double-crochet one, *onto the 2 casts from the previous row: double-crochet 2, cast 3*. Repeat from * to *.

Cast 1. *On the 3 casts from previous row, single-crochet 2, cast 4, single crochet 2*. Repeat from * to *.

Now put the egg in and start crocheting around it.

* Cast 3, double-crochet one onto the single-crochets from the previous row*. Repeat from * to *.

Cast 1. *Onto the double-crochets from the previous row, single-crochet. 

* Close by single-crocheting every other of the single-crochets from previous row.

The egg is now fully packed up.

To hang them, cast 30, close ring.

Cast off. Start decorating.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis  
55 AD - 138 AD

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tutorial - Organisation Boxes

My daughter is three years and we are practicing to put away our playthings after - well uh - playing. This is when I realised, maybe the little princess can make good use of some organisational boxes. Of course they had to be princessy or at least ballerinas on them and so I set off to work.

From our move, we still had a vast amount of boxes. Of course I have also a vast amount of kiddy-fabric. I grabbed a large jar of mod podge, shushed dogs and ducks outside and occupied the entire living room.

First, I cleaned the boxes from all the packing tape.

After folding them in on the bottom, I fixed them with mod podge.

After they had dried off, I cut a handling hole into one of the sides.

Then I mod podged this side.

Cut the fabric with a bit of allowance on each side, put it on the mod podged side and smoothed the fabric out.

Then I cut a hole into the fabric at the exact place where the hole in in the box.
Mod podged the inside and pressed the fabric in.

Make sure you mod podge all the threats.

I used two different kinds of fabric. The sides where the fabrics came together, I folded one over, kind of like sewing and mod podged it.

Et voila, after drying completely, all the toys have a new home ...

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis
55 AD - 138 AD

Monday, March 7, 2011

NEW HARVEST - Salate verde

Yummy!! Well, we have been harvesting salads before for our ducklings but this was OUR first salad harvest ;-)

I added parmegiano and apples to the greens, olive oil and balsamico... ahh, so good!

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis
55 AD - 138 AD

I love Mr Big!

Boy-oh-boy! We have been assuming this for a while but at four weeks of age, it is becoming more and more obvious: One of our supposedly both female ducklings is a drake!

This girl-duck must be a boy-duck: His beak is green, he is double the size of her and he is extremely loud. Yes, just like human boys ...

I guess sexing day old ducklings is not a 100% science. Here you can get some more insight into this ...

The problem is, I really dig Mr Big; he is a keeper!

So, you guessed it: when life deals you a bunch of lemons... or a drake that you did not want...

And after researching a bit I found out that there are not many Khaki Campbell breeders in California. Hmmmmm ... !?!?

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis
55 AD - 138 AD

MY EGGS ARE BLUE - Of hatching Ameraucanas

No, it's is not Easter yet and we have not prematurely painted easter eggs either.

The fertile chicken eggs that we have mail ordered in December have arrived and some of them are blue.

They are from a breed of chickens that lay blue eggs, called Ameraucanas.

Altogether we have 13 eggs of mixed rare breeds plus 3 Red Island Reds.

Considering a hatching rate of 50% with 50% of these chicks being roosters, we are aiming at 4 pullets.

We have:
6 Blue Ameraucanas
3 Wheaten Ameraucanas (my favourites!)
2 Blue Sumatras
2 Golden Lakenvelder
3 Red Island Reds (which I saved from the abortion doctor)

Since we mail ordered them, we let them rest at room temperature for about 12 hours before putting them in the incubator. Just by picking them up with your hands, you can already feel that these are not your regular grocery store eggs; they are definetely heavier. One really gets the sense of how fragile life is.

Initially, Roberto (the doctor inda house) was not interested in the Red Island Reds (your typical brown egg layer) and intended not to put them in the bator. When he asked me about that, my super-sad I-cannot-believe-you-want-to-abort-my-peeps face must have told him everything he needed to know. So, all 16 eggs including the 3 Red Island Reds are incubating. What if these were our only pullets in the whole hatch?!

And then we started turning these babies three times a day; it needs to be an odd number. In any event, this turning thing turned out to not be soo easy. Your hands need to be clean and you need to turn them SLOWLY, leaving them on the side with the big side slightly up to ensure no birth defects.

What can I say? My man is totally in love with my eggs ... Yes, HE IS THE EGG-MAN and I am the walrus!

Here is the temperature not quite right, which you can tell by his worried face. It is supposed to be 101.5F. You can also see the blue eggs. After a bit of twisting and turning on the bator ...

So, 18 more days to go ... Let's see who will hatch ...

BTW: This is our incubator ...  

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis
55 AD - 138 A