It's a boy and he has wings

30. June 2012 18:26

At four weeks old the red rump chick finally has the red feathers for which the species was given common name.  There is still a lot of the gray down on his back mixed in and hiding the red.

He also discovered he had wings and started exericising them when we took a trip down the the LA area.  Perhaps it was because of the motion of the car as we started up that he flapped to regain his balance and realized that he had wings.  And every so often since then he has been exercising those wings.

A few days later, at four months old, the chick was well covered with feathers and looked like a three quarters scale version of the adults.  He is spending his days in a larger enclosure so he can work on learning to climb, perch and use those wings while he also starts learning how to shell seeds and feed himself. 

More photos of baby bird are at

Gopher Grief

22. June 2012 03:45

The garden has been coming along nicely.  Since I am still waiting for something to harvest, I found other tasks to perform.  The past couple days I worked on getting the paths around and between the beds cleared of sprouting weeds and leveling them off.

This morning after making an inspection of how things were growing, I headed down the hill to the shed.  Not more than ten or fifteen minutes later, on my return, I noticed a new gopher mound on the side of the hill next to the garden.  As I came up futher, I discovered that the critter had not stopped there.  He had dug under the garden bed and created a huge mound on the other side.   

Obviously the gopher was not impressed by my hard work smoothing the path. And the little beast was smart enough to backfill his tunnels far enough so I could not find the runway for setting a trap.  Of course, he is probably pretty miffed we put the hardware cloth between his domain and the tender veggies growing above. I cleaned up the mess and the path is level again.  Odds are this is only the first assult on the garden from below.

A Bird in the Hand

20. June 2012 04:33

Baby bird (red rump parakeet) has been growing fast enough you can almost see it happen. The chick has gone from just a touch of white fuzz, to a coat of gray down to the beginnings of real feathers.  At three weeks old the pinfeathers are starting to show and he has figured out a few things about the way the his world works.  Meal time is still messy, but gradually more of the food is going into the chick than is landing on the outside.  Once the baby has had his fill, the frantic attacks on the feeding syringe stop and he heads for the hand to relax a while.

More photos of baby bird are at

Garden Tool

13. June 2012 07:01

Several of the sources mentioned the value of keeping a garden journal to document what one planted and how it did. So it was a no-brainer that I would be frequently taking the camera to the garden. I am realizing that I should have the camera handy any time I am near the garden or wandering around our property. Otherwise there will be either a missed photo op of a passing critter or else a dash through the house to fetch the camera and a trail of muddy footprints.

One example of the latter situation was my enounter with the California King snake. I had been working on getting the drip system in the garden working and went over to the house to turn on the water. There, by the side of the house, was a snake. Not the usual gopher snakes I had seen around previously. But a more colorful brown and cream striped one, about 30 inches long. Apparently the snake was as surprised to see me as I was it. While I dashed off into the house to grab the camera, it headed in the other direction for cover. Fortunately it did not go too far. A while later I went to get the mail and found it near the mailbox. This time the camera was close and I got a few photos before it disappeared down a gopher hole. (A week later, my husband found a snakeskin in that gopher hole. From the faint pattern of stripes and size, it probably belonged to my acquaintance from the previous week. )

Addtitional photos at

Baby Bird

13. June 2012 05:05

Despite being so tiny, the three day old red rump chick was tough. Its mama decided she had better things to do than take care of her offspring. So his care and feeding was up to the humans who barely had a clue about such things.

Online information sources about hand feeding chicks did not prove to be much help. For instance, they disagreed on some very specific points. One said to be sure that the chick's crop was completely empty before feeding. Another said it was okay to feed if it wasn't completely empty. And for other points -- well, the directions were clearly for larger species and / or older chicks.

It took a few days to get the "nest" satisfactory. The chick did not stay put in the center of the homemade brooder. It kept wandering off and would be found under one of the paper towels or tissues that were put in there for support. Eventually a shallow tupperware dish was found and crumpled tissues filled most of the area that wasn't occupied by the chick. The baby seemed to settle down after feedings almost immediately when he was in the small cozy space.

Of course the whole feeding routine has been a learning experience for both of us. For the first few days, feeding meant getting as much food on the outside of the chick as when inside him. The tip of the feeding syringe seemed too big for the beak it had to service. Fortunately the chick did get enough to eat and in a very short time his size and appetite increased dramatically.

Baby has made it through two weeks of being hand feed and is currently covered in fuzzy gray down.  A few more days until real feathers appear and we may get the first hints of the baby's gender.

See for photos of how baby bird has grown.

Seeds have sprouted

11. June 2012 05:01

It has been almost two weeks and the green beans, peas, corn, potatoes and a few other things are easy to spot from a distance.  I know corn and potatoes take a long time, but I remembered green beans and peas for being quick.  I checked the seed catalog information and it said 60 days.  So I have at least a month yet before I may have fresh green beans for dinner.  It is almost like waiting for Christmas when I was a kid -- it is taking so long!

While I was surprised by how quickly the corn, green beans and peas germinated, I was equally surprised at how long it has taken the carrots, onion family and spinach.  They are just poking up above the ground now and don't seem to have as good a germination rate as the others.  Perhaps that is a clue I should start these inside and put out as transplants next year.  Well, not the carrots -- I will just need to make sure that the soil where they are planted won't crust over or dry out before they germinate.

The zucchini is not doing so well so far.  It has bloomed, but apparently has not been pollinated as the pods wither and die instead of growing once the flower fades.  I suspect a lack of bees in the area to do the pollination. I will see if I can play bee for the next couple to be sure. The tomatoes are just starting to show blossoms and I hope they will be making fruit shortly.

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