Thursday, October 20, 2011

Storms and the Guinea

Last week we had some pretty heavy storms come through our area.  They were isolated and not wide spread, but they were strong.  From our house, the lighting was making the clouds glow, so I set up my camera on the deck and did a few time lapse photos.  Most just made the cloud look like it was lit up, since the lightning was inside or below the clouds, and not on the outside facing us.

There was a clear sky above our house and the stars were shining, but the big, puffy white storm clouds were alive with light.

At the same time, the guinea was there on its patio chair, enjoying the cooler night air.  He didn't seem to mind the storm clouds in the distance, or bother that we were there with the camera on the deck taking photos.

The only bad part of him being on the deck, is he tends to leave a pile behind in the morning.  Not sure if we can train him to go over on the side yard when he has to do his business like the dog does.  Nice thought though.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fresh Eggs

Fresh eggs are hard to beat.  Everyone said that once you get used to fresh eggs, you'll never want to eat a store bought egg again.  The first fresh eggs we ate was good, but it had a unique taste.  More than just having a unique taste, it had a taste.  Store bought eggs are more of an egg looking item that just takes up space.

Fresh eggs have such bright yolks.  It is one of the things you notice right away with fresh eggs.  After a little while, you get used to it, and then when you end up at a hotel buffet with scrambled eggs, you notice the dull color of the eggs languishing in the Sterno heated tray.

Fresh eggs to go with the pancakes.

The exciting thing is that we seem to get more double yolks than with store bought eggs.  Not sure if that means we have defective chickens, or they are still getting their systems figured out with this whole egg laying thing.  

The main point of this post is how easy it is to have a few chickens and get some fresh eggs on a daily basis. While living in Phoenix we had thought about having chickens but were weary about all that was involved.  In reality, we could have made a Chicken Condo like the one we have here, changed the door to a ramp underneath the coop and closed in the bottom with chicken wire and we would have been set.  It would have been a perfect home to two or three chickens.  Why did we wait so long?  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Guinea Staying Home

Now that we are down to one guinea, it seems to have gotten the idea that it is safer close to home.  So much so, that the last guinea has decided that even the Guinea Ghetto is too far from the house.  Instead, it has decided that the best place to "roost", if you can call it that, is on the patio furniture on the deck.

Guinea "roosting" on the patio furniture.

Luckily the patio chair cushions are stored inside, or the guinea may get so comfortable it would never leave the deck!  It doesn't bother me having the guinea on the deck, except for the extra guinea poop that seems to be accumulating underneath the chair.  That will be a good job for the Youngest Son to spray off the deck now and then.

Not only is the guinea hanging out on the deck during the night, it likes to spend a bit of time up on the railing.  Maybe it is the better vantage point of the yard that the railing provides.  Looking out of the kitchen window above the sink, the guinea has found it's perch.

Guardian of the yard.

As long as he stays around for a while and doesn't magically disappear, he is welcome to hang out on the deck.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bee Update

One of the two original hives didn't have much honey reserves so I started to feed it some 2:1 sugar syrup.  After the long days of rain we had the other week, that hive was doing good after being fed for a week or so, and the strong hive had used up a lot of its food while it was stuck in the hive and couldn't get outside.  I took off all the supers on the hives that still had them and put feeders on all three hives.

After about another week of feeding on all three, they are all coming along strong now.  The hive at Possum's garden seemed the most active.  It is in full sun, so it may think that summer is still hanging on more than the other hives that get some shade during the day.

After sitting down and looking at the entrance to the hive and watching the bees for a few minutes, I noticed that most of the bees on the outside were drones.  Apparently the ladies were kicking the drones out of the hive.  Some were down in the grass at the front of the hive, some were on the face of the hive box.  Others were making a landing on the entrance to the hive, only to be pushed back away by the worker bees.  No more free loaders allowed.

The bees are so fascinating to watch.  Every time I tell the Good Wife that I am going to make a quick inspection at the hives, she knows now that it will be an hour or two before I am home again.  The inspections get done, which is why I went to the hive, bu then I also spend a bit of time just watching them.  Seeing what they are bringing back to the hive.  Are there legs full of pollen?  Are the guard bees checking them out at the entrance?  What is everyone doing in the hive?

The Good BIL (Brother-In-Law) was talking about getting a hive.  Maybe when I do splits this spring I can give him one of my hives.  He has a great garden with lots of veggies, fruit and flowering plants all around his house, even though he lives in a suburb.  After having the bees this first year, I now want a hive at the house, knowing that they are gentle and don't bother people because they have work to do.  I'll keep you posted as to what comes of the Good BIL and his potential beekeeping.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Virginia State Fair

Originally being from Wisconsin, the state fair is a huge spectacle with all sorts of food being the focus of the event.  Some of these foods are corn on the cob, grilled in the husk, then peeled back and dipped in an old coffee can full of melted butter, ten sprinkled with salt and pepper.  Another is the hand made cream puffs that are made inside a refrigerated building you walk through to get your creamy delight, enjoying not only the sweets, but also the cool temperatures.  And of course, there is the brat.  If you say it while you are pinching your nose closed, you will get the nasally accent that a true Cheesehead will have as they order up their brat, with or without kraut.

So the Virginia state fair rolled into town and we got a great deal on season passes through Groupon.  Have I mentioned how addictive Groupon is?  Car detailing, restaurant deals, and now the state fair!  Some friends of our grabbed the deal on Groupon along with us, so it was off we go!

This year we made it to the fair for two days.  We had the season passes, so we had to use them more than once.  The first trip I convinced all the people involved, five kids and three other adults, including The Good Wife, to check out the animal pavilions before going on the rides.  Partly because I don't like the rides, and partly because I wanted everyone to get a real feed of what a fair is all about.  Although I did take a photo of the kids on the display board simulating a roller coaster!

We checked out the chickens, the ducks, got a bucket of mini donuts, looked at all the displays of vegetables that were entered into the competitions, watched a cow judging, which I have no idea what the judge is looking for.  Of course some time was spent with the kids climbing all over the farm tractors on display.  We also checked out the calving barn, and there was a newborn calf less than 24 hours old laying there next to its mama.

There was the arts and crafts pavilion, which wasn't appreciated by the kids, but the photos entered into the competitions were fun to look at.  By the time we looked at everything that wasn't a ride, it was time to go!  The only thing that kept the kids at bay, was a promise that we would come another day.  And so we did.

The next trip to the fair was all about the rides.  When I commented that we needed to check out the animal pavilions before going on the rides, I thought we were going to have a mutiny.  Off to the rides we went.

Each child got a wristband for unlimited rides.  From one ride to the next, watching them toss and turn, flip and fly and spin and roll.  My stomach was loosening up just watching them, and both of my feet were firmly planted on the ground.  After a little bit, they were hungry again, even though we had eaten at home before going to the fair.  So some french fries were bought and shared with the group.  Then more rides.  And more rides.  And...

Apparently french fries from a state fair and rides at a state fair don't mix.  At least not inside the stomach!  But after about a half hour, he was back at it and in the rides with the rest of the kids, and nothing left in his stomach.

Overall, we all had a great time at the VA state fair.  It isn't the size or food spectacular of the WI state fair, but it is still a lot of fun.  Of course, my favorite part is the animals, but I know the kids loved the rides!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pressure Washing the Deck

The Good Wife suggested that we clean the deck and then put a sealer/stain on it.  It has been a long process, partly because there hasn't been that sense of urgency.  We are borrowing a pressure washer from some friends, so there isn't the urgency of needing to get the rental back to the shop, so we have to get it done this weekend.  That's why it has been more than a month since we started and we still aren't done.

At first I didn't think it needed to be washed, but after starting, the Good Wife was right.  It was horrible.

The dark portion is the deck before washing.  The wood colored decking is after washing.  Don't ask me why I started the deck on the left and then decided to do one of the benches from the right to left.  I'm not even sure why that happened.  It may have been that I was trying to show the difference between washed and unwashed.  Regardless, it was hard to argue it didn't need to be washed after the project was started.

We're not done yet.  All the deck is pressure washed, and the railings from the deck side are completed.  All that is left is the railings from the outside and the framing around the outside.  It is just going to take a good day of work to get it done.  And now that the cooler temperatures are coming, we better get it done quick so we can get it coated before the winter weather comes and the sealant won't cure.

The question now is what sealant should we use?  We like the wood color of the deck, so we don't want to use a stain that is going to change the color of the wood, but we want it to be weather sealed.  And I definitely don't want to be doing this again next year, so I want something that is going to last.  If anyone has any suggestions or had good experience with a particular brand, please let us know.