Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's This?

We have this plant that looks exactly like a corn plant.  Tom saw it while he was mowing the garden pasture earlier this summer.  He thought it was a volunteer corn plant, so he left it standing to see if it was going to produce any corn.  It's way across the field from the garden.

From a few feet away, it looked like there were a couple of ears of corn on it.

But no, it's not corn...or, not any kind of corn that I've ever seen.  I guess it's some kind of weed that we don't want taking over the pasture.  It's bursting with some kind of seed head, so I cut the stalks down to prevent the seeds from maturing and reseeding. 


This is the sight that I saw when I first walked out of the house this morning.  Well worth the effort of picking off the voracious caterpillars for.

By the way, I found out those huge green caterpillars are tomato horn worms and grow up to be the Five Spotted Hawk Moth, which is about as big as a hummingbird.  To read more about them, you can go here:  http://organicgardensite.com/bugs-harmful/tomato-horn-worms/

Friday, August 27, 2010

Chicken Genius

Generally, chickens don't appear to be terribly intelligent, but I've gotta hand it to them because they do have their moments. 

Tom accidently locked our chickens out of the coop today so they had to find another place to lay their eggs.  I don't know where that place was, but I hope they forget by tomorrow and return to depositing their eggs in the nesting boxes. 

In my search for the missing eggs, I took a peek in the stall where sitting chicken is.  There was an egg on the floor.  I thought that maybe one of the hens had found her way in there and thought it was a nice place to leave an egg, so I went in to get it.  But it had gunk on it and smelled a bit funky.  So, I took it far out in the field and threw it down.  Now, remember, just a few weeks ago a reader warned me that rotten eggs will explode.  But, did I think of that at all?  Nope.  Totally gone from my mind, that warning was.

Anyway, the egg did not break as I expected (I wanted to see if there was a partially developed chick in it).  Since it didn't break on it's own, I poked it with a stick once, twice, thrice "POW!"  Stinky rotten egg splatted everywhere.  Oh, the stink. 

I don't think any of it got on me, but I still smell it an hour later.  It must be in my sinuses.

Rotten egg and my not-genuis-poking-of-the-egg aside, the main event here is that the sitting hen knew that egg was bad and she somehow got it out of that nest and onto the floor of the stall without breaking it.  I assumed she rolled it - out of the nest, up over the lip of the cage, letting it drop to the wooden platform, then rolling it off of the platform and several feet away.  Even if the egg had rolled and dropped off of the platform by itself, it would not have rolled on that sandy floor, so she would have to have rolled it some more.  She didn't want that stinky egg to explode anywhere near her.

Tom suggested she might have tucked it up under her wing and carried it out, which, I suppose, is a possibility, since she does sometimes hold the eggs up under her wings.

To be sure it was one of hers, I took her off her nest (with much protestation and hen growling) to count (and smell) her eggs.  There were eight and there used to be nine.  One of the others smelled a bit funky.  I don't know if it's because it's going bad or because it had a bit of gunk on it.  I guess I'll know in a couple of days if the hen discards another egg.

In the meantime, I haven't lost any of my incubator eggs to rot and today is the last day to turn them.  Pipping day in three days.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Caterpillar Poop

I guess I didn't even know that caterpillars pooped, really, who even thinks about those kinds of things?  But this is what I found all over my well planter and moon plant when I was feeding the fish this morning.  At first I didn't know what it was, but it soon became evident.

I've seen this kind of damage before when I lived in the Dallas area.  I came out one morning and my entire moon plant was eaten down to the stem - gone, in one night.  Each of those stem stubs used to have a leaf on them.

Even though this moon plant is quite large, I'm pretty sure the caterpillars, if left to their own devices, will devour the entire plant in just a couple of days.  I don't feel much like sharing my plants with the caterpillars, especially since this plant is blooming anew every night and has dozens of buds ready to pop.

It took some careful searching, but I finally did find about five of these caterpillars.  They are beautiful in their own way and very cleverly designed so that they blend in with the plant.  It's as if God created the moon plant, then thought, "Hmm, now I need something to keep it humble," and then He created this perfectly matched creature with a voracious appetite.

I probably didn't find all of them and will awake tomorrow morning to more of my moon plant having been devoured, but at least, I've saved a bit of it.  Oh, and I fed those chubby little critters to the chickens.  It's only fair.

And, just because it's sort of pretty, here's a picture of the seed pod for the moon plant.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Have You Ever Heard a Chicken Growl?

From Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens on how to tell if a hen is brooding:

"Just because a hen is sitting on a nest doesn't necessarily mean she's setting.  She may still be thinking about the egg she just laid or she may be hiding from some bully that's higher in the peck order.  To test a hen for broodiness, gently reach beneath her and remove any eggs you find there.  If she runs off in a hysterical snit, she's not broody.  If she pecks your hand, puffs out her feathers, or growls, things are looking good."

I tested this out today.

After much thought, I decided on a plan of action for the brooding hen.  I fixed up a nest in the old rabbit cage that we had and put it in the stall where Tom had built a platform for the goats this past spring.  Then I had to figure out how to get the hen to move.  She would not be coaxed off of her eggs with food.  So I carefully stuck my hand in her nest up under her trying to get her to move and expecting to be pecked.  She did not peck, but much to my surprise, she did growl.  I carefully lifted her out, first checking under her wings where Storey had warned that hens sometimes hold eggs and she did have one under each wing.  When I got her out, she discovered that she was hungry and went after the scratch that I had put in the trough.  While she was eating, I put the eggs in the tub of warm water I had taken with me and washed all the gunk off of them.  Then I quickly took them out to the prepared nest and ran back to get the hen.

The big question was would she sit on them in the new place and would she stay?

I checked on her seven hours later and she was still there.  I think if she doesn't try to leave for the night, my plan will have been successful.

Many dangers lie ahead, though.  More from Storey's:

"If she does manage to hatch out a brood, other chickens may kill the fuzzy intruders, much as they would kill a mouse or a frog that wanders into their yard." and "Occasionally a hen will be so horrified by the appearance of interlopers beneath her that she'll attack the little fuzzballs.  Be ready to rescue the chicks and brood them yourself." 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Read the Instructions First

My wonderful sister-in-law, Tina, gave me Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens long before I embarked upon chicken raising.  One would think that I would've referenced the book before I tried the natural method of chickbirth, wouldn't one?  Well, I didn't.  One would think that a hen would know how to hatch chicks and all that, wouldn't one?  Well, maybe she does, maybe she doesn't, but things aren't going so well around here in egg hatching land.

At least one of my hens did get broodie (broody?) and is sitting on the eggs pretty much all the time.  Since they all pretty much look alike, I'm not sure if it's one hen or if others are taking their turn sitting on the eggs.  But, before we reached this point, we've had ... issues. 

I started out with the 12 eggs in the box, but the chickens kept laying more.  I marked them so that I'd know the original 12 (so I could remove the new ones) and also to be able to tell if they were being turned.  But, with the chickens sitting on them and getting in and out of the box to lay even more eggs in it, they rubbed off my marks.  I ended up with 15 eggs in the box, then a snake ate five of them in one night.

 Back to ten eggs, then a couple more were laid, then two were broken.  They weren't rotten, but it made the nest stinky and sticky and the eggs nasty dirty, as evidenced by the picture above.  I snuck in and cleaned out the nest when the hen wasn't looking, threw away the three dirtiest eggs, then put clean bedding and replaced the eggs.  Another egg got broken somehow today, so now the eggs are all dirty and sticky and I'm going to have to clean the nest again.

One thing I do know is that the eggs need to be kept clean.  I don't know how they are getting broken, but it can't be good for the developing chicks for the eggs to be coated with dirt, egg innards, and feathers.  Eeww.

So, I had a lightbulb moment and thought to look it up in my chicken book.  Apparently, I have done just about everything wrong.  The hen needs to have her own little brooding pen/house and I'm going to have to wash the eggs in warm water.  I'd like to start all over with new eggs, but I'm afraid I might mess the hen's timing up or something since they supposedly sit on the eggs for 21 days.  I'm not sure how they know that.

Bah.  I don't know what to do now.  I'm going to have to sleep on it. and try to come up with a solution to the problem of separating the chicken. 

How in the world does a bird ever hatch an egg without us humans messing with them?  Hmm, maybe that's the problem, we're messing with them.

Friday, August 13, 2010


We have these berries vines growing in our yard, two different kinds, that I'm trying to identify.  Can anyone help me?

We have these shrubby vines that sprout up everywhere.  I mow them down, but some of them have come up in places where I can't get to with the mower, so they have gotten quite large. (click on pic if you need to see a bigger image)

This is what the blossom looks like.

This is the mature fruit - small clusters with maybe four or five berries per cluster (just one on each of these, though because they've ripened and fell off or birds have gotten them).  Of course, I tasted it even though Tom said he wasn't going to help me if I fell down gasping.  It is very sweet.

This picture below is a different vine with fruit.

This vine is so entertwined with the muscadines and so far up in the trees, that I can't tell which is which, so I can't get a separate picture of the leaves.  Honestly, it looks like it's growing on the same vine as the muscadines did and at first I thought it was a second generation of muscadines.  But now that the fruit has matured, I've decided that it's a different vine altogether...or they are really stunted muscadines.  They are tiny deep purple berries about the size of peas on a large cluster.  I haven't tasted these because I can't reach them.

My first thought was the first bush was elderberry, but none of the leaves I found with a google search looked like my leaves.  The last picture looks very much like the elderberry cluster, but because I can't see the leaves, I can't tell on that one either.

Anybody have any ideas?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Incubation Efforts

I have seven new eggs in the incubator.  They should hatch the week of the 21st.

And, I'm also experimenting with the natural method of chickbirth.  Meagan's boss (the one who told us about teaching the chicks to eat) told her that the way to get hens to start brooding is to just leave the eggs in the nest.  When they get a "clutch", they'll start sitting on them. 

I'm not certain how many eggs a hen considers to be a clutch or if chickens can count or if they just look at them and think, "um, that's about enough".  But, in my mind about a dozen sounds about right.  So, I took all of the eggs from two days, which happened to be twelve and put them in one of the chicken's favorite nesting boxes.  I didn't do it all at once...just added them one by one as I found them.

It has been three days and so far, we have seen no evidence of brooding.  All the hens seem to be doing is adding to the nest.  There were 14 eggs in the nest today.  I took out one that was just sitting on top of the others because I felt pretty confident that it had just been laid, but I couldn't remove the thirteenth egg because I'm not sure if any of them have started to develop or not.

Tom suggested that I mark them so I'll know which ones are new and Meagan suggested I mark them so that I'll know if a hen is turning them.  So, I guess tomorrow morning, before a hen can get in there and lay another egg, I'll mark them with a pencil. 

Monday, August 09, 2010

I May Be From Venus, but He Definitely Is From Mars

Sometimes, I am totally baffled by how Tom and I could so utterly fail to communicate.

Here's the deal.  He's going to use some old railroad ties and stuff to build some raised beds for next year's melons.  At first, I told him to build them out about five feet from the mow line that he had made when he mowed around the garden last week.  I was thinking that I needed enough space between the garden and the raised beds to be able to get my riding mower through.

After thinking about it overnight I decided that they shouldn't be that far out, that they should be closer, like a regular garden row/aisle and that I would just get rid of the grass altogether between the raised bed and the garden.  That way, the raised bed wall could be the border and would keep the bermuda from encroaching into the garden the way it continually does - at least it would for that small section that it would border the garden because we currently only have enough wood for two beds.

So, Tom set about scraping away the grass with the tractor in the designated spot.  I stood there for a while in the blazing heat to watch as he dug a big gouge in the earth and shoved it around a bit.  When he stopped, I offered this suggestion, "Um, I think you only have to lightly scape away the grass and not dig so deep."  With an exasperated expression, he said, "I didn't mean to dig it so deep."  I took that as my cue to leave him to his manly job and keep any further comments to myself and I went back in the house.

When I went out to the garden today, this is what I found.

A very nicely tilled up, grass free plot.  Clearly, the railroad tie was used to measure the proper width of the raised bed, which makes sense.  And the bed is to be about eight feet long, which also makes sense.  But...it's, like, right up against the first row of the garden, which makes absolutely no sense because there is no way I can walk between the rows. 

So, I can either keep my mouth shut and let him build the raised bed right up against the first row and then shift my whole garden over next season so that there is room for an aisle, or, I can explain to Tom what the problem is and he can redo it and move the whole thing over about three or four feet.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


A snake ate all three of  my chicks last night.  I feel just awful about it.  It was my job to protect them and instead, I left them with no way of escape and easy prey for a snake.

My original plan when I started the incubation was to keep them in the house after they hatched.  Our house is a long ranch style (or rambler as some people call it) that has one end that can be closed off if unused.  We usually keep the door closed and the A/C off at that end of the house.  With the A/C off, the temperature would have been right for the chicks and they would be safe from all predators.

But, we had a guest arrive and have had to keep the A/C on for him, which makes it too cold for the chicks,  so I had to adjust my plans.  The garage is just way too hot during the day, but the chicken coop stays at a pretty even temperature since it's in the shade.  That's why I chose the coop, knowing that there was a possibility of a snake getting in there, but feeling I had no choice.

So a month of fretting over regulating the incubator temperature and turning eggs three times a day was all for nought.  The last four have not hatched.  I'll have to start all over again.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Oh yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about.

I read that the chicks will imprint on and become attached to the first large thing they see after being born and that would be me.  Not sure I believed that, but am now being convinced of it by their behavior, which doesn't bode well for any kind of slaughtering plans we might have.  Whenever I go check on them they'll run to me and when I put my hand in there, they want to crowd around and snuggle in my hand.

Meagan's boss, who used to raise birds, said that you have to teach them to eat and drink by tapping with your fingernail on the dishes and making bird sounds.  Maybe she said that just so I'd make an idiot of myself, but I have to admit, that's what I've been doing.  And it works!  When I tapped on the food bowl and made soft clucking sounds, they started pecking at the food.  Same thing with the water bowl.

This is their temporary home, in the blue bucket.  I originally was going to put them in that rabbit cage and had it all set up.  But, I underestimated how tiny they would be and realized that they wouldn't be able to stand on the wire floor because the openings were too big and they could also fit through the sides.  I searched high and low for an appropriate box, but Tom regularly burns the boxes and there weren't any.  I found this bucket instead which is even better than a box.  I put that grate from a dog kennel over it to keep the big chickens out.  Then, I thought the big chickens might get rambunctious and knock that off, so I weighted it down with the rabbit cage.

When they get bigger, I'll move them to the cage.  For the time being, I'm worried about snakes getting in there and eating them.

There are still four eggs in the incubator with no signs of pips.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Pipping Continues

It is confirmed.  The incubator does not have to be a steady 99.5 (like all the instructions say) to successfully hatch eggs.  I would venture to guess that my incubator only hit 99.5 when it was on it's way down from 100+ degrees or on it's way up from 95 degrees.  Apparently, that's close enough.

The second egg started to pip late afternoon yesterday and the chick actually hatched before the first pipper. 

Sorry the pics are blurry.  It was kind of hard taking pictures through the plexiglass window.

A face only a mother could love.

It finally just kind of fell out.  Exhausted.

Definitely not cute.

Puffy one was born last night and spent the night in a box on top of the garage refrigerator.  The wet one is the one that started to pip yesterday afternoon and didn't completely hatch until around 7:00 this morning.  We have another one pipping in the incubator.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


It's day 22 and there is a peck hole, I think that might be called a "pip", in one of the eggs and Meagan and I heard some peeping.  So, despite my constant troubles with this cheap incubator, I have at least one chick hatching. 

If you look closely at the light colored egg on the left, near the bottom of the large end, you can see the pip.

Two of the eggs died for sure because they were stinking bad.  I threw those away, resisting the temptation to break them open to see if they had developed at all.  So, I have seven hopefulls left. 

Monday, August 02, 2010


While they were playing, Harry stepped on Mochi and broke his leg.  He has a little cast on, but it doesn't slow him down a bit.  However, he is no longer allowed to run free and play with Harry.

This happened about a week and half ago and Mochi didn't seem to be in any pain at all except that he wouldn't put weight on it and wouldn't let us touch it.

Calgon, Take Me aWaY!

Of course, we've come home to a pile of farmwork and we have a lot going on.  I started mowing this morning, but got a flat tire on the mower.  It can't be fixed, must be replaced, so my mowing will have to wait until another day.  And now the cool of the morning is gone, so there will be no more outside work for me today.

To rest my spirit, I took some pictures of pretty things.

I don't know what this weed is, but it grows all along the fence line and by the road.  I mow a lot of it down, but it is very pretty.

The moon plant is taking over the well planter.  It has some buds on it, so will be blooming soon.

There are a few other plants in there, but they, along with the pond are overshadowed by the moon plant.  I don't know how many fish are in there.  I started out with ten, but it seems some of them have disappeared.  There's no sign of a water lily bloom yet, but the leaves take up most of the pond surface.

Wedding Pics

We went to my niece's wedding in Tennessee this past weekend.  She had a vintage theme and invited her guests to dress accordingly.  Some of them did and it was fun to see what they came up with.  The wedding was in a quaint little old church building and the reception in an old refurbished, very lovely, hotel. 

Here are a few pics.

There were seven bridesmaids, but I seem to have cut one of them out.  I never said I was a good photographer.  The two to the far right are the bride's sisters.  We also see the back of the bride's mother's (Tina) head and the heads of the bride's father's (Keith) parents.

The bride escorted by her father, Keith.

Jordan, brother of the bride, walking out.  To the left, uncle Tab watches, and uncle Tom eats the popcorn intended for throwing at the bride and groom in lieu of rice.

Apparently, the sister of the groom has some of Tom's family's blood in her as evidenced by her method of popcorn eating, which is "grab and cram".

Posting Comments

It has come to my attention that some of my friends don't know how to leave a comment on my blog.  I do value all the comments and would like any advice that anyone will take the time to give me concerning any of these farming, gardening, animal husbandry, etc. topics that I write about and am learning about.

So, just a quick tutorial on posting a comment.  Look down at the bottom of the post for "comment" or "post a comment".  It can be different depending on how one has reached my blog.  Anyway, click on whatever says "comment" and a box will pop up that says "Talk to me" at the top.  Write your comment in the box, then scroll down and click the orange bar that says "publish your comment".  Another box will pop up and tell you to type the letters that you see in the box.  It will be odd words or random letters and kind of wavy, sometimes hard to read, but that's OK, if you don't get it right the first time, you get more chances.  I didn't want to have that feature because it is inconvenient for readers who want to leave comments, but I was forced to add it because of spammers.

Anway, after you follow the instructions for the verification, your comment will appear on my blog.  If you don't see it right away, you can either "refresh" your page, or just go about your business surfing and when you come back to my blog, it will be there.

Also, if you want to be notified of any new posts or comments, you can click on the "subscribe" button to the right of the screen and follow the instructions.  That way, you don't have to check back daily to see if there's anything new because you will be notified by e-mail when anything new is posted.  I subscribed to my own blog so I wouldn't miss anyone's comments.

I might have missed something, so if any reader wants to add their two cents to my instructions, have at it.