29 September 2013

Summer of the Orchids

Soon after I posted about the native orchids growing in my front yard, I decided to go to the Coastal Carolina Orchid Society meeting.  I usually don't like being in these groups, because the focus is on one type of plant - it's not these groups, per se, but me.  I can be obsessive about things, as well as be a completist - someone who has to have every one of a certain thing.  I'm better about it now, but I still avoid them.  I like variety.  Back to what I was saying - the main reason I went to the meeting was that they were doing a repotting workshop, and I thought I might learn a little something, get continuing ed credit as a master gardener, and probably get a free orchid as well.  The afternoon was one that I won't forget.

The meeting was held in a science lab classroom at a local university, and when I got there, it was fairly full.  I wandered around, looking at all of the orchids on display - for a "show-and-tell" later, and found out they were having a raffle as well.  They had close to 50 orchids to be raffled off at a dollar a ticket.  People were buying ten to twenty tickets at a time, but when I opened my wallet and I had only four dollars - but I had a strategy.  I bought my tickets, but I waited until most people had made their choices as to which orchid they were trying to win - there were cups next to each one that raffle tickets went into.  Then I went around and tried to put my tickets into only the cups that were empty.  I would have to wait to see whether that strategy would pay off.

The meeting got underway, and they covered club business first.  There was a demonstration of some orchid-cataloging computer software, then a discussion about the best size and type of bark in which to plant orchids - and how much a pallet of it would be if everyone chipped in to buy one.  They finally got to the repotting part of the meeting - they talked about the orchid that everyone was getting, and we just went at it.  There was little discussion on how to actually do it.  After everyone had potted their orchid, they did the show-and-tell like I mentioned before.  Members had brought in their plants to talk about them - there were a lot of great specimens, but it had been about two hours and I was ready for the raffle.

I was a little nervous, because either I would be taking home a lot of orchids...or I wouldn't.  I thought I might win all four orchids, but I didn't want to be that person that shows up for a single meeting and wins a lot and never comes back.  So, drum roll, please...I won 3 out of 4 orchids, and if you add the one I potted up, I brought home four orchids!

They were four different species(?) of orchids - phalaenopsis, cattleya...actually, although a couple of them looked fairly different, two of them were cattleyas.  The fourth was an oncidium - it didn't last very long.  At first I chalked it up to beginner's bad luck, or the fact that it might have different enough growing conditions that it should have been treated differently than the others, but I don't think that was the case.  The leaves died very fast, and from the base toward the tip - the best answer I could find was that it had some kind of virus, and that there was nothing that I could do for it.

It has been close to four months since I brought the orchids home and they are doing fine.  I water them about every two weeks with a little liquid fertilizer and water, and they seem to be doing well.  Now the next thing I need to figure out is how to make them bloom!

22 September 2013

New Chicken Drama

I've considered getting more chickens, either by hatching them, buying day-old chicks, or by getting some that are ready to start laying, but most of that involves a little drama.  Hatching them means that you will have roosters to get rid of eventually.  Getting day-old chicks means raising them yourself, or, if you have a broody hen, hoping she will do it for you, but being prepared in case she doesn't.  Introducing older chickens to the flock means taking the risk that they will be rejected by the flock.  One of the first times I introduces a new chicken, she got run off almost immediately.  We found her a few days later a few houses away.

I had the opportunity to adopt three Dominiques from a neighbor this weekend.  He had a situation that forced him to get rid of his chickens.  As I am writing this, he still has seven more that need a home.  Hopefully we'll be able to find one.  I got some of his Dominiques because I remember reading that they were all around good birds.  Most people getting chickens want ones that are fairly young, and at 2+ years old, these are probably close to middle-age.  I think I like the chickens as much for the entertainment as I do for the eggs, so it doesn't bother me to have older hens.

Once I decided which ones and how many I could take, it was just a matter of how to go about this.  I thought his chickens were fairly friendly, and I could walk up to one and pick her up - that wasn't the case, but the first one wasn't hard to catch, since there were ten of them in a confined space.  I put her under my arm, walked back to the house and dumped her over my fence, away from my other chickens just to be safe.

With the second and third ones, I decided to use a net to make it easier.  So after dumping the third one over the fence, I went to observe all the chickens to see if there was any interaction, good or bad, but I could only find two of the three new hens.  I looked in every hiding place in the back yard, but no luck - she must have gone over the fence.  I happened to spot her in the front yard - she was just wandering around out there.  With a little luck I was able to catch her fairly easily and put her back in the back yard.  The didn't seem to interact with the rest of the flock, but they weren't being harassed either, so that was good.

The next important time to see how they interact is when it is time to go to bed.  My experience is that the first night can be the hardest for the new birds.  They're somewhere they've never been and may not know exactly where to go, even though the other chickens do.  Once it got dark, I went to see if the new hens has figured out what to do, and they hadn't.  One was in the run, but hadn't gone into the hen house to roost.  I was able to grab her, and open up the house, and put her on the roost, but it was like she physically couldn't sit on it.  I had to try several times before she didn't fall off.  I had never seen anything like that before.

I found the second one nesting under some giant elephant ears near the hen house.  She was easy to grab and put on the roost.  Then I had to find the third one.  I got a flashlight and looked in every hiding place I could find, but no luck.  The one place left was in a large Japanese privet that was growing in the chicken area.  Sure enough, she was roosting in the giant shrub.  I was able to grab her and put her on the roost next to her sisters.

While writing all of this, I've been monitoring the integration process while taking lots of photos, and there is just too much to write about right now.  Print news can't handle breaking news.  Anyway, that's the situation so far.  I will write more later.  Stay tuned.

08 September 2013

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I always plan to write this blog every week, sometimes even writing more than I need to get ahead of myself.  But I never know when something will keep me away for an extended period, and it tends to happen in the summer.  This past year I was steadily writing from Labor Day to Memorial Day without a break, I had done a lot to attract new followers, and I was tired.  When you add in everything going on in my life - real estate transactions, daughter going to college - it was time for a break.

So, how did I spend my summer vacation?  Well, I visited state parks and botanical gardens, walked where dinosaurs walked, took my daughter to college, cleaned out the garage.  In the coming weeks, I'll be posting about my summer activities as I work on other gardening articles and get back into the swing of things.  Stay tuned.