Looks like the aquatic snails have been having fun. Lots of eggs under the Styrofoam harvesting floats is a good sign. I’m breeding them in otherwise unused tubs so that they can give the chooks a little extra meat and calcium. Maybe I can flog a few off too when I have enough. I got the snails for free along with a gift of pond plants and mistakenly allowed them into the aquaponics system. Now, when I see one, I pluck it out and put it in a bucket of pond weed. I’ve accidentally found that they enjoy sitting under Styrofoam that is floating on the water’s surface. They seem to enjoy that little secluded space to have a little gastropod fun and then lay their eggs. The end result is that I have a couple of buckets with egg laying snails that are multiplying pretty quickly. That can’t be a bad thing, getting another form of life into an
This afternoon, I found Mercy, our oldest chook dead in the middle of the run. She was coming up on 4 years old. There were no obvious marks or fluids, no sign of a struggle, so I hope it was a painless death. I’ve been remiss in spending time with the girls lately as there have been so many new things to take my time and attention so, besides the normal turn out at feeding times, I haven’t noticed anything amiss. Life is to be celebrated, so I made her final resting place the bottom of the Pepino which she loved to strip the leaves from and eat the fruit of in Summer. It is here that I plan to create a King Stropharia mushroom patch, so it is a good way for her to continue to benefit the garden. I hope her journey is a good one and maybe we’ll meet again as another set of probabilities another time
Dolores, our new chook, laid her first egg today. In fact, she was so enthusiastic that she laid two (though probably not at once…). They are coloured blue because she’s got Araucana somewhere in her heritage. They’re not quite the tone in the pic, that’s a bit intense because of when and where I took it. With this happening within a day of switching to his chook food mix, our supplier, Ray, is bound to take the credit when I tell him!
We’ve annual grasses coming up everywhere! They’re in the beds, on the footpath, by the fence – they’re all around! But not to worry…there’s no problem. Some may call them weeds and curse the extra workload that they bring but, in fact, I planted all of them. I had a packet of Canary seed given to us a while back and, rather than give it to the chickens, I decided to maximise its bounty. You see, if I gave the chooks the seeds, they would have wolfed them down without batting an eyelid. One or two feeds and they would have been gone. So, I thought that if I planted them (actually, I just threw them about the place, not exactly planted), they would grow, converting soil nutrients into biomass, absorbing a little CO2 as they did so. When grown to maturity, each plant would have a magnificent seed head of its own with many more seeds in total than
I spent most of the day extending the chicken run. It’s a metre longer, 10cms wider and now has a sliding gate rather than the swinging gate that was using a lot room to open. It’s a project that’s been on my mind for a while as the chooks are confined to quarters now and I like to give them extra space. They were just too destructive to allow to keep free ranging in our small yard. Yurei and Pappy spent the day at the other end of the garden but Mercy was right in the thick of things, giving me instructions all day. It seems to have been built to her satisfaction!
I found a few of these critters when I was cleaning out the chook run today. I reckon its always good to find new species here and there. Diversity is resilience and I hope these are adding an extra bit to the decomposition process. I tried feeding the beetles to the girls, but they ran whenever one landed near them!
As you can see from the pic above, it’s time to clean out the Mealworm Palace. The fine powdery stuff in the pic is called ‘frass’ and it’s what we call the leftovers after insects (in this case Mealworms) have eaten. It also includes other waste materials that we won’t go into here. You might like to check out the post I wrote on building a Mealworm Palace and this other on the lifecycle of a Mealworm so you know what to expect in each tray. Any large sieve will do. Being a fine powder and, by volume, denser than bran, frass work its way to the bottom of the trays through the actions of Mealworms constantly moving and stirring the bed. That makes it fairly easy to separate with any reasonable sieve. The frass will fall through, leaving the bran in the seive. To clean the trays, work in an open area (it can be a dusty job). Then you take scoops
Mealworms are great for chooks, fish or reptiles (and blog authors…) to snack on. They’re easy to breed and take little care. I was turned on to mealworms by our friend, Vicky who has bred them for a while. Doing a little research online, I discovered that there is a semi-automated system that you can make at home to breed them up conveniently. But now, what are we dealing with? Description The mature form is a black beetle, the Darkling Beetle, Tenebrio molitor but we are more interested in the caterpillar-like larval stage. In the wild, the beetles can be found in warm and dark environments such as beneath logs. Its genus name, ‘Tenebrio‘ means ‘one who likes darkness’. Darkling Beetles are scavengers who feed on decomposing plant or animal material. In man made environments, they can be a pest, living where we store grains and grain which they’ll happily eat (and they eat a lot). Life Cycle: The Darkling