All Good Things. . .

Guineas are better than any insecticide.
Early morning is the best time to be in the garden. I often step out of the house before 7 with my camera just to check out the garden. Its pleasant, much cooler and the light is not so intense. Even at this early hour, I was not the first to visit the garden. Hank and Edna our resident guinea fowl were already on the job. Walking slowly, heads bobbing, they were searching for insects. You go, guineas! 

Edna sets on eggs under the mulberry tree. Don't mess with her.
This summer, Edna, our female guinea, successfully hatched a nest full of eggs after many unsuccessful tries. She located her nest under the mulberry tree not far from the vegetable garden. It seemed like an ideal location. To offer her a measure of protection (she sat of the nest all night when who knows what might be prowling around) we thought we might fence in the area around the nest. Guineas can easily fly over a fence, but predators would stay out. That was the idea anyway. Mike placed a fence around three sides with the idea of giving her time to adjust. She did not. She paced the sides of the fence unable to figure out how to go in the open side. Flying over didn't seem to occur to her either. The fence was removed and she was on her own.

Well, not completely on her own. During the day, Hank, the male guinea didn't get very far away. He would listlessly look for insects and then sit and soberly wait a few feet from the nest. "I guess this waiting for babies thing is hard on the guys, too," I remarked to Mike one day. "Yes, it is," he said, his voice heavy with experience.

If you look closely, you can see the first hatched keet.
Day after day she sat on those eggs, coming off the nest just briefly to eat a bit or get a drink. As the days progressed she left the eggs less and less. Four weeks is a long time and a lot could go wrong, but this time, nothing did. And finally, success!!  There was much jubilation among both humans and guineas.
A proud mama and her scurrying keets.Baby guineas are called keets.

 All was not well, though. We had been told that guineas are not very good parents. That seems rather harsh, I know, but the truth is that a suburban yard and eleven tiny keets who cannot keep up with their parents wandering is not an ideal combination. Especially if you factor in neighborhood cats. Mike has raised many chicks and several keets in our garage. He knows how to take care of them. We knew they would be safer there. "Let her keep a few," I protested. He left her two. By the end of the day, there was only one. 

The next morning we were disappointed  to see Hank and Edna out on their morning scavenging without any trailing keet. Then several hours later, I saw them again and this time, the keet was with them. They were near the chicken pen and the tiny keet walked through the fence and tumbled down a few inches into chicken pen. Chickens ignored her and I rescued her, returning her to her parents. When I told Mike, he said, "I think I need to get that keet, too." 

"You let that mama keep her baby!," I hollered from the house as Mike walked across the yard. But what he found was the tiny keet sitting by itself in the middle of grass between the chicken pen and the garden. Hank and Edna were nowhere to be found. Even I couldn't argue with him then. That keet joined her siblings in the garage.

The keets are an interesting genetic combination. The top half have the pearl feathers like their father, but on their breasts, they have white feathers like their mother. The keets have been sold and have a new home.
"What shall we do next, Hank?"
 Hank and Edna didn't seem to miss a beat. They resumed their happy wandering, looking for bugs in the garden, stopping by the glass doors to admire their reflection and never getting very far apart from each other. Each night they roosted in the cedar tree over the chicken pen. 

Wednesday morning I was out early, before 7, and there they were, already on the job. After a pass through the garden, they headed towards the front of the house and I headed inside. "Have you seen Hank?," asked Mike, minutes later. "Edna keeps calling for him and he doesn't answer."  Yes, she certainly was. Her two syllable screech was repeated over and over. There was no responding one syllable call. Over and over, throughout the day she continued to call. Hank, it seemed, had disappeared. Looking around, we could find no evidence of what might have happened, not even a stray feather. 

I'm sure you've guessed that there is no happy ending to this story. It took a few days, but eventually we learned what we already knew. Hank was dead. He had evidently been hit by a car on the road near our house and was thrown under a evergreen tree. I had never seen them on the road before, but I guess it only takes once. 

Edna continues her lonely patrol. She still stops once in a while to call, but not so often as before. Oh, look, there's a bug! She scurries after it. 

Hank, our guinea 2010-2012

More blogs about our guineas:
It's a Bird, It's a Pain
Parenting Problems
Lonely No Longer


A Kansas Country Garden- Third Week of June

A favorite combination; Salmon Daylily, Russian Sage and Sea Lavender.
You only have one day to enjoy this bloom.
In the summer garden, day lilies abound. As the buds form, I try to give the plant an extra dose of water and the reward is beautiful blooms.

Cherish each bloom for they last only a day, but there are more to follow.

A lovely pale yellow daylily.
Another in lovely shade of peach.
Perhaps my least favorite daylily, a double orange. Making a note where these are planted so next spring, I don't divide and plant them everywhere.
Who doesn't love an old-fashioned hollyhock?
The allium seem to glow in day's early light.
A summer annual, cleome will bloom most of the season.
Dahlberg Daisy is a little but mighty plant-love its cheerful blooms
A bee visits the Rose of Sharon shrub.
And now the hibiscus begins their bloom.
Yes, we will have ripe tomatoes by July 4th! We beat the deadline by a week.
Hoping for a long season of summer squash.

And What Do You Do With Molasses?

Not far from our town, located next to the highway and near an Amish-Mennonite community is a Bulk Buy Store. It is owned and staffed by people from that community. There's no fancy packaging in this store, rather most items are measured into bags or  little plastic containers and given a plain label. Its a frugal way to purchase a variety food items. There are certain things that I always buy there: spices, grains like flax seed or quinoa, assorted sprinkle decorations for cookies and cakes and saf-instant yeast which comes in a one pound package, is the best, and lasts me for months (I keep it refrigerated). Its a bit out of the way for me, so I don't go there often and when I do, I want to be sure to pick up everything I need. You would no doubt make a list, but I always think I'll remember everything and sometimes I do. 

Soft in the middle, crispy on the outside. Perfect!

A Kansas Country Garden - Second Week of June

Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, adds a splash of color to the garden.
What a wonderful summer we've had so far! And I'm not just talking about the weather. Although in a week with two lovely rains and a little bit cooler temperatures, the weather certainly adds to the wonder. To be truly wonderful, it usually involves people you love and that's what has made my summer so special. 

I'm still on a high from our Girls Weekend with my Schroeder cousins. We sent Mike down the road to bunk with our son and welcomed seven cousins plus a sister for an fun weekend. We are spread out far and wide and decades go by sometimes between face to face visits. 

We laughed, we cried. We talked, we sang. We shopped, we painted birdhouses. We ate, we ate some more. All too soon, we were saying good-bye. Precious time. So glad we did it!
Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus, blooms by the garden bridge.

Early morning light gives a glow to the Rose of Sharon

Hollyhock in the dawn's early light.
A medley of blooms.
Allium continues to bloom.
Sedum is grown mostly for its faithful foliage, but it does have a bright flower, too.
Gomphrena dries well, but is a great garden flower, too.
The Butterfly Bush, Buddleja, or Buddleia, grows quite tall.

In the Vegetable Garden
Is that a really big onion or are they really small tomatoes? The tomatoes are the first of a hopefully long harvest.
Peppers are beginning to set on.
Guineas in the garden does have a down side. It is this: they like bean plants. We finally fenced part of our beans and you can see the difference. The guineas could easily fly over the fence, but so far they haven't. (The round white flower is from the neighboring onions.)

A Kansas Country Garden - First Week of June

This allium (possibly allium atropurpueum) is always blooming on June 13. Many of the garden flowers are very early this year and I anticipated that these allium would be as well. For several weeks already they have boasted green spheres which have only blushed to purple in the last week. It appears that they will again be blooming on June 13. 

June 13 is significant because it is the birthday of our second son. I only made the connection between these flowers and his birthday because at one of his birthday parties all the blooms were plucked by a herd of little boys who proceeded to pelt each other with them! That was the end of the flowers that year. 

Despite the shenanigans of young boys, these allium have done well over the years and multiplied. I have placed them throughout the garden. Graceful globes nodding the the breeze give a lovely look to the garden.
I am always happy to see our guineas in the flower garden. They take care of most of our insect problems.This is Hank.
Cleome, or Spider Flower is one of my favorites. It is known as a reseeding annual, but seldom reseeds in my garden. I purchased these as bedding plants. They should grow quite tall, but have begun blooming at 12 inches.
This lovely Rose of Sharon shrub was a gift from my mother-in-law, This is its best year so far.
Blackeyed Susan bloom along with larkspur(finishing up their bloom) and several wild flowers.
Good planning probably wouldn't have placed a pink hollyhock next to an orange daylily, but I rather like the combination.
The garden at dawn. If you look closely at the left side of the photo you can see our guinea, Hank, busy on bug patrol.
The Elderberry Bush has a lacy bloom.
Feverfew, Tanacetum parthenium, has a long bloom time.
Still looking for those bugs. Please don't eat the butterflies or bees, Hank and Edna!
Sedum with a brilliant bloom
Old fashioned Hollyhocks are always welcome in my garden.
Sweetpeas climb on the arbor over the patio.
The lilies finished up this week. See you next year!ww
Off they go in search of more bugs. Or maybe they'll stop to enjoy their reflections in the glass at the front door. Have fun, Hank and Edna! To read more about our guineas, check out these links: It's a bird! It's a pain! or Parenting Problems