Friday, May 31, 2013

Weird stuff. Weirder stuff than my usual weird stuff.

See what I did there? I lured you in with the cute lamb photo before I show you all the weird stuff.

Some of my hens have been feeling particularly artistic as of late. This masterpiece was created by a Barred Rock hen who has asked to remain anonymous. 

 Note the subtle use of color, and interesting use of texture variation.

Some industrious hens have been working overtime. The egg pictured below on the right was so large that I couldn't close the carton. 
Some hens, on the other hand, have not been pulling their weight! The green egg on the left was about the size of a quarter.

Sometimes I get the feeling that the hens are trying to tell me something with their eggs using some sort of secret chicken language. This is an egg I found quite some time ago, and I am still trying to decode the secret message encrypted on the shell. What could they be saying??? I think they are thanking me for all that I do for them. A more likely explanation would be that my chickens are possessed.

This isn't exactly weird, but my apple and pear trees are looking as though they will provide a bumper crop of fruit this year. After last summer's harvest of exactly zero apples, and a few handfuls of pears, this is a welcome change.

Because I don't spray chemical insect control on any of my produce, I wanted to employ some natural methods of pest control this year to ensure that I retain as much of my fruit crop as possible. I decided to acquire, and hatch out, some Praying Mantis egg cases since Mantids are great pest control, but first I had to find some. Upon hearing about my search, my cousin gifted me an egg case that he found on his property, and later, my sister Marie found the Holy Grail of Mantis cases. Marie's home is close to a tree farm, and the trees there were loaded with cases. My family fully understands, and embraces, my affinity for all things strange and they know what makes me happy, so this is what Marie brought me for my birthday. Don't worry, the tree farm will be fine without these cases. The trees get sold and move to new locations so these Mantids are much safer at my farm.

In early spring I placed the egg cases strategically around the farm, close to fruit trees, Raspberry bushes and Blackberries, and I waited. It has to be warm for a few weeks before the nymphs will emerge...although, as an aside, when we were kids we found a couple of egg cases and brought them into the house. Unbeknownst to our mother, we left them resting atop the refrigerator in the kitchen, upon which they hatched. Greeting my mother the next morning were hundreds of baby Mantids dancing about on the fridge, the counter-tops, the stove. I guess it's always warm enough in the house for them to hatch. Poor mom. Still, it was probably better than the time we brought a bucket of Garter Snakes into the basement. I digress...that's another story. 
The weather here bounced back and forth from hot, to nearly freezing temperatures all spring, but I kept checking and waiting for the eggs to hatch. Finally, after a few consecutive days of warm, humid weather, eureka!! They started hatching. And hatching. And hatching. 
Look away if you have an aversion to creepy crawlies.

So hard to photograph these tiny, little guys.

"You lookin' at me?????"
These tiny alien look-alikes emerge with a voracious appetite, and they are pre-programmed to start eating other insects as soon as they hatch, so the cute little fellers have added incentive to leave the nest quickly, otherwise, it rapidly turns into a scene from the Donner Party-insect style. 
Within an hour or two, all of the hatchlings had disappeared into the brush. 
Go forth my minions, and do my bidding!

Cute lamb pictures next time. I promise!


Michelle said...

LOVE your natural pest control!!! How big are the egg cases, so I know better what to look for?

Kelly said...

I love Praying Mantis'sssss. (or whatever is plural for Mantis) What a great idea and I love that your loving sister gave you bug eggs for your birthday. Do you think that I would be able to do the same thing to keep aphids out of my hay field? Where do you usually find those little buggers anyway? So many questions, I'll bet you'll wish you'd never mentioned it.

Unknown said...

Well hello stranger!

Oh, I did like the cute lambie photo...and even the UFO chicken photo. And, though I'm not a fan of praying mantises (manti??), I found the story of hatching them very interesting!

Hugs and Happy Summer!

Cloverleaf Art and Fibre said...

Very cool! As long as they are outdoors, not in the kitchen. And that lamb is beyond cute -- Gorgeous!

Spinners End Farm said...

What a wonderful gift! I think preying manti are the eggs too! Is that lamb mioget?

Crosswinds Farm said...

Hi Michelle,
I think that these are the Chinese Mantis, their egg cases are about an inch-inch 1/2 tall, and a bit over an inch across. We have found them in long grass along the roadways, in trees, and bushes. I am not sure what types of Mantids you would have in Oregon, so yours may be a bit different.
If I am not mistaken, I think you can collect them in the fall after they are laid and store them in the fridge....if you want to do that ;).

Kelly, would you expect anything less from Marie????

Hi Zan! I've been stalking your crazy life on F.B. busy lady!

Cloverleaf, my mom would totally agree with you!

Sherry, Yes, mioget ram. He looks like a half poll. GAH!

Michelle said...

Trust me, as a vet's wife I've had FAR WORSE in my frig! ;-)

Christine said...

Awesome! I can't stop laughing over the thought of those guys all over the kitchen.

Karen Anne said...

My heart would have stopped if I were your Mom :-)

That is an extremely cute lamb.

thecrazysheeplady said...

Ooh, I had no idea that's what a mantis nest looked like. Thanks!!!

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