Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What tree is that??

Tonight I finally got around to making the markers for all the fruit trees we've planted. I wanted something that would last a long time, wouldn't fade (hopefully), was weatherproof, and creative.  I searched Pinterest for ideas, and found some great ones, but not exactly what I wanted.  I figured it out, though.  Here is what I did.  I worked from the receipt from ordering the trees so I wouldn't forget any of them.  I bought a big box of white Skulpy original clay from Michael's, some thin 3' metal rods that I cut down into 12" pieces, and a cheapie set of Alphabet rubber stamps (also from Michael's).  I gathered my art mat, my marble rolling pin, some tiles, acrylic paint, rags, and a cookie sheet.
I used my off set spatula to cut the blocks out after stamping the names on the clay.
After I ran out of rods, I just poked the holes and baked them.

Using the tiles so I would get a uniform thickness, I rolled the kneaded Sculpy clay out between them to make 1/4" thick sheets.  I squared it off, and stamped the names of each of my trees and bushes into it, cutting it into little tiles as I went.  I poked the metal rod into them, but I ran out of rods at one point, so just started poking the hole in the bottom of the sign, then removing the rod, hoping to cut more rods later and put them in after they are done baking.  Into the oven they go at 275 for about 15 minutes.

I baked the rods right into the clay.  I"ll have to add a touch of super glue to a few of them that didn't set tightly.

After they came out of the oven and had time to cool, I pried them off the cookie sheets and slopped thinned black acrylic paint all over the front of each sign.  I'd paint about 4 of them, then go back and use a damp washcloth to wipe the paint off the top, leaving it in the letters.

Pushing paint into the letters.

Starting to wipe the paint off.  I had to scrub at some of the outlines to soften them up, BUT....

I'm really pleased with the final result.  I really like how the paint that stayed on the surface of the signs make them look old and weathered.  The darker ones in the picture below were the batches I baked for 20 minutes, thinking longer = better, but it just burned them a little, LOL!  I'm fine with it.  Adds some variety!  I have 30 little signs with the rods to stick into the ground next to my trees, and 21 more that still need rods inserted!  
Unbelievably, I stretched that box of Sculpy to make 51 little signs!  (The last one is a little thinner than the others!)
Tomorrow I will take them all outside and give them a few coats of spray acrylic to seal them before distributing them out.  Kern and I walked the property today to be sure we knew where each tree was located and we made a map for future reference.  We will know which plum is a Santa Rosa and which is a Bruce when we eventually eat them!   

Last day of March!

We've had a couple of productive days here!  First of all, my lame duckling (Ms. Gimpy) has shown some improvement with the meds.  I've completed the 5 day treatment for the whole flock, and am continuing to treat Ms. Gimpy for awhile longer.  She can actually 'stand' on her 'knees' today.  Her feet are still not working, but at least she can make some distance when she wants to.  It's hard to know if she will recover enough to lead a good duckie life, or if we should take matters into our own hands and euthanize her.  She doesn't seem to be in pain or overly stressed out, especially since I've been letting her stay in the duck house at night.  We will continue to monitor her.  Mia and I spent some time enjoying the babies' company yesterday.

Mia was a little irked I woke her up from her nap to take a pic, LOL!

While we enjoyed hanging with the babies, the big ducks decided to come hang with us for awhile.  They are finally approaching us in stead of running from us.  CAUTIOUSLY, but at least they will come check us out from time to time.  Here is a video of them.

Kern was finally able to get our mailbox put up.  Heads up:  we will be letting you know the street address and will be phasing out the P.O. Box soon.
Proud of his handiwork!

He also planted the 2 willow trees near the pond, and planted two more Wonderful Pomegranates out back.  All we have left to get into the ground is two plum and two new peach trees and the Goji berry bushes.  Hopefully by this next weekend we can decide where they will be growing!

On the back side of the pond.

We celebrated Anika's sweet 16 on Monday!  She wanted to go to IHOP for dinner, then we came back for cake and gifts.  All my kids always request my chocolate mayonnaise cake with peanut butter frosting for their birthdays.  It's really rich, and you need coffee to get it down, LOL!  Anika got some music cds, several gift cards, the movie Eight Below (our favorite) in blue ray, and this Doctor Who backpack.  Happy girl!

Happy Birthday, my Sweet Girl!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

So much to do!

Well, I've not posted in about a week, so I want to get you all caught up.  Because everything I do is SOOOO important, you know!  (Sheesh!)

Our little duckling flock has taken several casualties and we were losing them fast.  They would all be fine when we put them to bed, but there would be a dead one or two in the mornings when we went to take care of them.  We would see one laying on its back, flopping around, losing control of their legs for a short time, then seem to recover just as fast!  I finally called my vet to ask if she had any ideas or advice for us.  One of my ducklings had gone completely lame in her legs, and I truly expected her to die.  We had her isolated from her sisters (usually had a sister with her for company) to give her a chance to rest with water and food right beside her.  The vet told me to bring her in, and any other ones that had me concerned.  As I went to go get her, I startled the babies when I came in the duck house (I usually announce myself from outside, but didn't that time) and they all rushed to the back of the house, but one baby had a total seizure!  Her neck doubled back onto her back, legs and wings straight out and stiffened... scared the heck out of me, so I scooped her up to go with us to the vet.  Both were running fevers, and the vet said she was worried that it might be a virus going thru the flock.  My lame baby was also kinda snotty, so THAT could be helped with an antibiotic.  She decided to give me the antibiotic and a steroid to help with the neurological issues.  I managed to talk her into giving me enough of both to treat the whole little flock!  WELL,  after 2 full days on the meds, when I checked on the lame baby and her sister this morning (she is staying in the sunroom at night because of her lack of mobility), she was half standing!!  She has gotten some of her control back in her legs, and I'm hoping it will get better everyday.  I'm astonished... I truly thought I'd lose her.  She's a fighter!  During the day I'm putting all the babies in the playpen on dry ground with a 'pool' for them.  They are a riot to watch, and Kern and I spend time everyday watching them!

They can't resist the draw of the water!
Here is a video of them playing today!

Our land is still trying to dry out from all the winter rains.  It's pretty stinky as the water retreats and leaves behind rotting grasses.  The adult ducks are just delighted to muck around in the stinky stuff.  Eww. 
Poor kitty!
Shadow got himself onto the roof of the garage and had to meow pitifully at me for awhile yesterday morning.  Hey, Dude... you got yourself up there, get yourself down!  (I occasionally find him on the roof of the house as well.)

It has been hot enough during the day to seek shelter.  Even Mia was smart enough to find some shade today!

pear blossoms!
We continue to monitor the fruit trees.  It looks like about 85% of them survived the winter.  I'm anxious to get some of the apples and a new pear cut down a bit.  Either that or resign ourselves to ladders to harvest!

You get a line...
Kae and Raine and I have spent a little time fishing in the last couple days.  I love to fish.. We only have 3 little catfish worthy of the skillet so far, so we've cleaned them up and put them into the freezer until we have enough to make a meal!  Still waiting to hook that monster I know is in there!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Movin' On UP!

Well, we've had a few interesting days here! 

The ducklings have been spending some time outside each day.  They have had a blast rooting around in the grass and the mud.  I placed them right next to the older ducks so they could see each other.  Yesterday, as I was watching them play in their fancy new playpen, I saw one baby struggling to get up.  She was laying on her back mostly and couldn't get herself turned over.  I snatched her up and ran her into the house and put her under the heating element with fresh water and food and sat with her for awhile.  She was having trouble with her legs, seemed really weak and frail.  It scared me, so I had Anika sit with her while I went out and gathered the remaining babies back into the brooder and brought them in as well.  After getting them inside, I noticed another duckling also experiencing the weakness and lack of control.  This is what happened to the last duckling we lost as well.  Kern did some searching online and found the suggestion that ducks can get botulism from the decomposing grass in standing water, and the symptoms sounded a lot like what we were seeing.  I immediately started cleaning out the watering bowl every hour or so and adding fresh water.  I also added a splash of unfiltered apple cider vinegar to help with a nutritional boost, and the vinegar also acts as a cleansing agent in the water.  I carefully placed the affected babies near the food and water several times during the evening and went to bed, fearing I would wake up to two fewer ducklings in our flock. 

If you sleep with your beak in the watering hole, you don't have to get up to get a drink!!

I guess the quick action and getting them fresh water was a good thing, because this morning all 22 were happily peeping up a storm.  They have discovered that a few of them were now big enough to actually take a strong jump and land on the floor beyond the brooder, LOL!  Our babies are growing up.  SO.... today they graduated to the duck house.
WOOT!  Their available space just got about 6X bigger!

I'm going to keep them in here until the ground dries up considerably.  No more botulism for my girlies. 

It took a few minutes, but once they found the water, they were all over it!
They were SO excited to get on the hay.  They rooted around in it and nibbled it and chased each other around the space a bunch.  GOSH, they are still so cute!  All that excitement required a nap.
Look at those sweet babies at the back snuggling together!
And so it begins!

I'm a bit anxious about tonight when I put the older ducks in there.  I know they will be able to see over the divider, and I hope they are curious but not aggressive toward their new sisters.  When I close them in, I'll probably sit in there with them for awhile. I have NO idea what I'll do if they all freak out and start smacking each other around.

Spring has made an amazing showing in the last couple of days. 
Peach blossom

The pollen count has skyrocketed, and the bees are taking advantage of the early blooms. 

I'm hoping the plum trees will actually give us a harvest this year!

The Bradford Pears are lovely.  Too bad they don't produce anything but shade!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Splish Splash!!

We got some MORE rain, so while I was cleaning out the brooder today, I put the babies in with a puddle.  THEY HAD A BLAST!!  It was only about 2" deep, but they would flatten themselves down and dart through the water.  Lots of talking and excited cheering!  You can see them HERE.

Back inside and drying off under the heat lamp!

My salad garden was full to the rim with water, and I could hear the teeny, tiny radishes and lettuces bubbling under water, trying to breath.  I got a couple of short tubes from the garage and used them to syphon about 4 inches of water out.  At least my teeny, tiny plants are now above water.  Keeping my fingers crossed for a few dry days ahead!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

...The rain is gone.

 But seeing clearly is still a bit hard.  Today brought no more rain, but there was heavy cloud cover all day so I don't think much drying of water happened.  I'm hoping my salad garden can recover. 

I need the sun to come out and dry this out a bit!
 During all the rain, it was also pretty cold, so I didn't take the babies outside.  We've had a blast hanging out with them and bonding, LOL!  They are so happy to come running to see what tasty treats we are offering.  We can even get a couple pets in without them freaking out. 

Look at this face!!  Adorable!! There isn't anything cuter than a week old duckling!
 I called Kae and Raine in to watch them go crazy over the pouring water when we are filling their water bowl, and we all laughed and played with them.  Ducks do this funny thing where they will poke their bills into wet ground and shake their heads back and forth really fast, and it makes a funny sound.  Kae had a handful of food, and as it got down to just a few pieces between her fingers, the babies started sticking their bills down between her fingers and doing that drilling thing, LOL!  Nothing warms my heart more than my 26 year old daughter giggling like a preteen over ducklings tickling her fingers. 

Taking pictures of a duckling is like trying to get a good shot of a toddler.  Difficult because they are always moving!

Today I wanted to get the ducklings out into the yard to play in a puddle.  It was warm enough to let them play for awhile.  I put them out onto high ground in the little enclosure I made for them, and they were delighted to go splash in the puddle. 
Grass AND a puddle!!  JOY!

 Those babies got to drilling and muddied up that puddle pretty quick.  They didn't care, they were SO happy!!

I KNOW there is something wonderful down there!!  I just gotta find it!

Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer and SUNNY!!  I'll have to let them out again.  I'm cleaning their brooder out everyday, and Kern bought another 2 packages of the shavings today so we can keep them in the sunroom for a couple more days.  I'm thinking they will be out in the shed by the weekend.  I'll miss their sleepy peeping and the excited little games of tag that makes up most of their days!  Guess I'll just have to move out there with them!


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Babies get grass!

Baby ducks stink.  That is all there is to it.  After two days in a brooder in the sun room,  we either had to clean it out or move out of the house.

I won't enlarge this one for you, just trust me... it's nasty!  

Kern and I took the brooder outside to clean it out, and it was such a beautiful day, we put the babies on a patch of clover while we did that. 

Happy, happy babies!

I put the water tray in with them, full of water.  At first they were just a little curious, but as soon as the first couple babies hopped in, they all had to jump in.  Such delight!
Clover...or water... tough decision!

I found some chickweed and put it in their water.  They were crazy about it!  I even got a little video! We let them play for about 15-20 minutes, then we got them back inside under the heating element.  With a clean, new brooder, they happily preened for the next hour before taking a nap. 

All clean!

Tomorrow should be another warm(ish) day with a pretty good chance of rain.  If there is a clear patch in the afternoon, we might take them out to play in the puddles and to scratch around in the mud.  I'll be sure to take pics.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Little bitty pretty ones!

It was a day of little, adorable thing today!  Hubby was at a mens' retreat with the church, so I was up early to let the ducks out.  Before opening their door, I walked their yard and walked through all the puddles to break up the ice so they could get to the water.  They won't even use the watering dispenser because there is so much water standing in the yard.  After letting them out and listening to them gossip about everything for a few minutes, I headed back into the house.

As I passed the salad garden, I noticed little, bitty, teeny, tiny SALAD growing!!  WOOT!!
Lettuces and spinach, I think!  I also saw some of the bibb lettuce sprouting in the tiers above!

 Coming into the house I was greeted by the Littles peeping and looking SO stinkin' cute!  Fresh water made their itty, bitty hearts bubble with joy!  They were so happy about the water (Even though they weren't OUT, LOL!) that they weren't even phased by the giant hand that descended into their midst, especially when there was FOOD in it!!  Several of the babies helped themselves.  I put a   Video on my Facebook page of them eating out of my hand.

They were also interested in pecking at my glove, LOL!

OH my gosh, look at those adorable faces!!  I can't wait to see them in full adult feathers.  They're gonna be gorgeous!  

 While Kae and I worked together to make dinner, Little Bitty Pretty Mia decided to werap herself up in my blanket on the couch and get a quick nap in.  She was so relaxed and comfortable, she wasn't even phased when I came to admire her cuteness.

Sleepy Mia!
 I love my Zaycon meats, and we decided to make salmon tonight.  I poached it for the first time (I usually bake it) and made a fresh tsatziki sauce while she made garlic and butter baked mushrooms, wine and garlic sauteed shrimp and stir fried veggies.  Talk about some good eats!

All in all, a good day!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Happy ducks!

Today started with me making calls to try to get Anika into an orthodontist.  We haven't needed one since moving here, and I wasn't even sure where to start.  The dentist office in town told me to look for one in Forney, about 40 minutes away!  Angie's List didn't give me much help, and I finally used Yelp, LOL!  Found one in Seagoville (about 30 minutes away) and gave them a call.  Hallelujah, not only could they see her today, but they were at their Terrell office! WOOP!  Kern and I took Anika to lunch, then I took her to get the wire fixed, buzzed around Big Lots to pick up more (ahem) comfort food for the storm that is supposed to get here tomorrow and headed home. 

When I got here, Kern was working on the water systems for the ducklings.  We learned from prior experience that not only do they stink, they will spread water from one end of their enclosure to the other within moments of getting fresh water placed in front of them.  I headed out to the duck shed to clean out the old straw, put down new straw, and make a place for the ducklings.  I put up a barrier across about half the house to keep them separate from the big ducks for a week or so, or at least until I'm pretty sure the big ones won't bully the littles. 
A fresh, clean duck house ready for the babies to arrive! 

Since we were out in the yucky weather anyway, and I had my rubber boots on, we decided to switch up the duck yard.  Kern and I removed fence posts and now, instead of a circle, they have a big ellipse-shaped yard.  They were quite indignant about me messing around with their fencing, but when they saw the new grass and chickweed, they were SO excited, and started to attack it with gusto!  Happy, happy ducks!

They must have found some lovely bugs in that spot because they were having a blast!!
 You can see the line where we moved the fence back by the difference in the height of the grass.  They are in the new area. 

You can see where I changed the angle of the fence (find the mud line, LOL!). There isn't as much yard directly in front of the shed door, but that allowed me to extend it further back.  

The only thing we are missing for the babies is a 'tractor' to get them out of the shed.  I won't be able to just let them out in the duck yard because they will walk right through the fence for the next week or so.  I know what I need, so maybe tomorrow I can run into town and try to find it.  

Monday, March 2, 2015


 So, This happened a few days ago, and outdoor activities have been pretty much reduced to putting the ducks in and out of their shed, taking the dog out to do her doo-ty (LOL!  See what I did there!  I'm sure I think I'm funnier than I am. ;) )  It has been pretty cold and wet and miserable since then.  We got things melted down, and there is SO much water standing on the property.

 The ducks are fine with it, and it's weird how much they really don't mind the cold, nasty weather!  I'd probably be huddled in my straw-filled house instead of out in the icy water, but not them!

Mia and Daddy have some bonding time.
We have been hanging out indoors, talking, playing games, eating a LOT of comfort foods (I'm feeling my jeans get tighter by the day.) 

The Grandboy is going stir crazy, not being able to get out to run.  Thankfully, Grandpa is willing to go play with him from time to time.  They like to build towers.  Well, at least Grandpa builds, and Toby 'helps'.

A tower taller than even Grandpa!!

We are expecting the arrival of 25 ducklings in the next few days!  I'll need to get out to the shed and get it set up for them tomorrow!