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Or, is it 26 geese?  In our case it is 26.  All of the poor girls are laying eggs like crazy. Right now there are eggs everywhere and there don't appear to be enough nesting sites--either that or they like to let someone else find the site, get it all fixed up and then steal it.  As a result we have horrific quarrels with lots of honking and feathers flying.  The male poultry are all fighting each other as well.   Some of the girls have settled down (you can tell when they get enough eggs and actually start sitting because they pull the down off their breasts and cover their eggs with it).  We have three geese on nests in the big chicken house,  one in the little chicken house, two in the brooding pen, two under the chicken house, one in a duck pen, one in the hay shed and two fighting over a lonely corner of the electric fence.  That poor nest has nothing going for it, no grass, no brush, no nothing, unless you count the electric wires on two sides.  There also appear to be geese building nests on top of the brush pile and in the fence rows.  They give themselves away when they come off the nest or as they are going back to it after an eating or swimming break.  When they leave they put their heads down and honk like mad as they run to the food bowl.  They  do the same on their way back to the nest.  It seems that they are really giving notice.  Each goose has one or two ganders protecting her and her nest site.  The goose in the shed has the best team.  She has LG and Shoe.  LG (the Canada goose that lives with us) is a fierce defender of his chosen goose.  Those with no nest sites yet  are so desperate it is sad.  Yesterday we found Rocky and his two hens running around out of their little chicken tractor.  The geese had opened both latches and were checking out the tractor as a nesting site.

 
 
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It seems that spring may finally be here, tentatively, but here!  The spring flowers are poking their leaves out of the mud (at least at my house, it seems that every blade of grass is gone) and the ducks and geese are laying their eggs everywhere.   The chicken house floor is covered with goose and duck eggs--a prospective mama goose was rolling them into a nest.  She was quite aggressive and ran at every other bird that came in with her wings outstretched and hissing viciously.  Unfortunately, it appears that the first goose with a nest in the chicken house will not be hatching any goslings.  It has been over 34 days and nothing has happened so I am very pessimistic.  We will give her a few more days, but she is losing interest.  Probably she know nothing will hatch.  Baby birds start peeping inside their shells a few days before they hatch and there may be no peeping.
Speaking of peeping, the real subject of this blog is spring peepers--the tiny tree frog Pseudacris crucifer, the common northern variety.  Yesterday evening for the first time this spring, we heard spring peepers, a sure sign of spring.  It was amazing that they emerged on the first day of spring.  I don't ever remember that happening before, usually we start hearing them late in February or early March.  They can take a little bit of freezing, but we generally don't get really cold weather or hard freezes once they emerge.  I looked them up this morning and discovered they are called crucifer because they have a dark mark that forms an x on their backs and crucifer means cross bearing.  It shouldn't be long now until we start finding tadpoles all over the place and in the meantime we can enjoy the spring singing.


 
 
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No, this isn't this year's gosling, but if everything goes well the first gosling should be arriving around March 17.  (We have our fingers crossed.  The mama has had lots of trials and tribulations, most particularly very cold weather.)  We have five nests going now, but three of them are having difficulties.  They have been being attacked by an o'possum.  The other day, the alpacas were running around their field in the weirdest way.  They had their heads down and looked for all the world like they were chasing something.  The binoculars and a trip outside showed the alpacas chasing an o'possum.  Unfortunately, they chased it into the equipment shed where at least three goose nests are hidden along with some chicken nests.  The next evening the o'possum was spotted in one of the nests  where he crunched down on at least 10 goose eggs.  It is a prime spot, though, and there are three geese fighting over it.  One of them is LG's girl.  He helps her drive out the other geese and I must say, he is vicious.  He stands on top of the poor goose in the nest and goes after her mercilessly.  He spits feathers everywhere and makes a vicious hissing noise while he is doing it.  Yesterday he was darting out from under the tractor and trying to keep us out of the shed as well.  Naughty boy, but then again, he is doing his job--he needs to go after the possum.  That would help all the birds and if he drove it out, make me very happy.

The little gosling in the picture above is little female.  We have Pilgrim geese and they are sex linked which means you can tell their sex by their color.  The little gosling has a gray beak, gray fuzz,  and hazel eyes so she is a female;  the males have orange beaks, yellow fuzz, and blue eyes.

 
 
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Aren't the colors of Rylie lovely?  I can hardly wait to get started on the shawl we will be making in April's mystery knit along.  Michelle Hunter created the pattern and will be posting the clues for each week's work on Thursdays in April.  (The first post will be on Thursday, April 3.)  Each week we will get directions for that week's work.  Michelle's patterns are great--she shares tricks and techniques and supports them with videos on u-tube.   
Rylie yarn is 50% baby alpaca, 25% mulberry silk and 25% linen, with 274 yards in a 100 gram ball.  
I will be setting up a time, probably on Friday or Saturday, for extra help or just to work together.

 
 
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Last night we went home hoping to find all the snow and ice ---gone!  Bu no, our outbuildings all face north and the snow and ice was still there with a layer of water on top.  This morning when we went out, the water was black ice and it was slicker then it has been all winter.  We positively looked like a miniature olympic layout.  We have (hopefully with the rain we can soon change this to had) ice for skating--and we don't even have to go to the pond, a beautiful bob sled run (the trail the geese and ducks use to walk up and down the hill to and from the pond turned into a sheet of ice, looking all the world like a bob sled run, and whoa to the animal that tries to walk up or down it) jumps and all sorts of other features.  The poor birds aren't even able to walk around.  They take a few steps and then start sliding, winding up with their web feet going out at angles and sitting on their backsides.  So, they fly back and forth to the pond and when they land, well they look like the skiers and snow boarders that blow it.  In a way it is funny, but really it isn't.  It would be so easy for them to get seriously hurt.  
The alpacas are doing fine--they mostly hang out in their shed eating hay--although they were out cavorting yesterday.  Since their field was covered with ice and snow, I doubt they did much eating, they just enjoyed the sun and warm weather.
And, what about us, sliding around out in the barnyard trying to do the chores?  Believe me it isn't a pretty site!  So, we hope for a warm rain that melts our snow and ice.  It would be nice to be rid of what we have before the next shot cold weather.  And, the good news is that every day, we get closer to spring!

 
 
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I have always wondered where the term duckpins (as the pins used in duckpin bowling are called) came from.  After some time and effort on the computer, I thought I would have some worthwhile information to share with you.  But, I don't.  All the sites were pretty uniform--having discussions about where duckpin bowling originated--Baltimore or some place in Pennsylvania.  That is not my interest--I don't care!
The picture to the right is of some of our black ducks walking up the hill from the pond.  (The white ones don't show up too well.)  Walking up the hill has turned into a monumental task for these birds.  I don't know how they do it!  The snow is deep, but icy on top, so presumably they don't sink down below the surface.  Never the less, the effort must be tremendous.  Can you imagine how horrible it would be if our legs were 1-2 feet  long with major swim fins on our feet and we had to move around in snow and slippery ice like this?  What must it be like for these birds?   How hard walking up this hill must be for these little creatures?  An interesting fact is that when they walk they wobble about (even when there is no snow or ice) looking a little like a duckpin that was hit, but doesn't fall down--you know, the top of the pin moves from side to side and in circles that get ever smaller before it rights itself.  During the process you hold your breath wondering if they will fall down--of course if you are bowling you want them to fall down if they are your pins.  Do you suppose that is where duckpins got their name?

 
 
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We are so tired of staying in here and having to eat hay every day!  We want fresh green grass and to run and play in our pasture!






(Don't believe everything they write here!  They can play in their pasture every day--they just don't seem to be crazy about the deep snow.  Their  tracks indicate they go to the gate, look around and head back to the barn! )

 
 
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I had every intention of taking a picture of this goose's nest every other day so we could all watch as she set up her nest and count the number of eggs in it.  BUT, she had other ideas.  I went out last week and she had pulled all the down off her breast and packed it around her eggs.  I knew then she had started sitting--but it is way too early and way too cold.  The nest is in the chicken house, so it is a little warmer, but it is still too cold.  Normally,  the geese start sitting around March 17, so this is very unusual, especially since the weather is so cold.  Well, she is on her nest now so we will see.  She gets off in the morning to get a drink and something to eat and then she is back.  Every morning the gander comes in and they talk (honk) to each other, then she settles down to her day, and night on the nest.  We'll see what happens.

 
 
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Doesn't the very name make you feel good on these cold, snowy days--radiant orchid--fantastic, I am warmer already.  Radiant makes me think of the sun.  Maybe lying on a beach somewhere or sitting in the shade of a tree or on a porch sipping lemonade.  Lemonade? Ahh, the life!  And then you add orchid and immediately think of the tropics.  Hot humid jungles with beautiful orchids growing in the tops of tall trees.  What a great color for this time of year!  Just don't look out the window! 
Why are we talking about radiant orchid?  Because it is Pantone's  2014 color of the year.  The pictures are supposed to show the magical tones of purple, orchid, magenta and pink, but for some reason some of the radiant orchid showed up as pink.  Those undertones show through, I suppose.

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Pantone's description of Radiant Orchid is  as follows:  
"Radiant Orchid blooms with confidence and magical warmth that intrigues the eye and sparks the imagination. It is an expressive, creative and embracing purple—one that draws you in with its beguiling charm. A captivating harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid emanates great joy, love and health."  

WOW!  And it turns out even better, radiant orchid is one of my favorite colors!
And, the picture below, well its back to ice and reality!

For more information on Radiant Orchid see http://ferrebeekeeper.wordpress.com/author/ferrebeekeeper/. Click on January 3, 2014 to go straight to the blog, The Color of 2014.

 
 
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The cold weather is back with a vengeance and the birds are suffering--at least it seems so to me.  Our geese and ducks spend nights down on the pond and as you can see the pond is ice covered except for a small patch in the center.  We keep our fountain on to try to keep if from freezing solid.  It is  tremendous protection against coyotes and other hungry wild animals (like bobcats) that might fancy a goose or duck dinner.

Every morning the waterfowl come up to the barnyard for their food and warm water.  The last few mornings they have had ice frozen in their feathers.  It is so bad that they tinkle (like the glass on a chandelier when rattled by a breeze or ice cubes in a cold drink).  They seem hungrier than normal and we have upped their food by about 3 times to make sure they have enough to stay warm.  This morning, in addition to the geese and ducks making pigs of themselves over the warm water, a hen  jumped in and was wading.  It must have been terrible on her feet when she jumped out. 

Paris is still hanging around!  She has a tremendous strategy for keeping warm and sneaking food.  She moves in under a goose, burrows in between its legs, under its belly.  Then she sticks her head in the trough under the goose's neck to eat.  She stays warm (all protected by goose down and feathers), safe (any predator has to go through the goose first giving her time to escape), and gets all the food she wants (the goose bullies its way into the feeder and she profits from it).

A  goose has a nest in the chicken house with three eggs in it.  So far they haven't frozen.  She seems to realize, as do most of the ducks and geese,  that the chicken house is reasonably warm.  This morning instead of a line of chickens coming out, there was a long line of ducks and geese going in for a quick respite before breakfast.  The waterfowl will go in for food or a quick warm up, but they don't like being shut in the house.  It seems strange to me, but then again I don't have lovely warm and waterproof down and feathers!  (The Canada goose in the picture is LG, the other is a Pilgrim gander.)