From the UC Blogosphere...
Lessons from the hive! Sound familiar? Honey bee scientist and noted author Mark Winston will speak on “Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive” at a special seminar hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology on Friday, June 5...
Bee hives in a sunflower field along Pedrick Road, Dixon, Solano County, in July 2012. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
My Feminist Hen
By Andrea Peck
I was going to write about hummingbirds today, but we have one shrieking hen who is so dominating that I can no longer think for myself – she has taken over my mind. I try to sleep but she squawks, I try to quiet her with food, but she squawks, I try to lock her in the hen pen, but she squawks. Loudly.
Did I say, loud? I mean LOUD. Like, let's close the doors loud or maybe, let's leave the house, loud.
On Saturday morning she motivated me to leave my coffee, my book, and the squishy confines of my couch and fuchsia-colored comforter. Braving the foggy morning, I took off at a quick jog, my version of a run, and pretended not to live in my own home.
It's driving me up the wall really.
She does have long pauses, like right now. It is late afternoon and she is cadaver quiet. Not a peep. It's the 7 a.m. version of her that really has me on eggshells. Could it be possible that she is planning her playlist for tomorrow?
It all started about a month ago when the sun became an early riser. At first, I did not worry; I simply employed my best tactical maneuver: feeding. I reason, rightly in most cases, that eating hens cannot squawk.
A crack of morning light would push at the night and without fail, I'd hear a low gronk. Glancing at my clock, I noticed a pattern: 6:08 a.m. Despite my pajamas and shlumpy appearance, I'd tromp out to the yard, give the ladies and Queen Hen some breakfast and then run into the house and flop back into bed. There were a few rare occasions where she grew insistent, but it seemed the food placated her on most days.
But, it did not take long for Snowball or Snowcake, whatever her name is, to move beyond petty manipulation. Clearly, this hen is no lay-down. She has taken over the roost and she plays by her own set of rules. One minute you can hear the sound of your own breathing, and the next, there is a stabbing refrain that makes you want to grab your head in agony. Luckily she has not figured out how to stay awake during the night or we'd really have some trouble.
The internet is useless. There seems to be no real solution other than my own plan of converting the coop into a soundproof box and opening the coop at set times. This remedy sounds slightly psychotic, I know, but it is a hair better than what I've seen on Google which harbors very little practical advice and a lot of flowery descriptions of lovely egg-singing and beloved hens with names that rival a rock star.
I'm sorry, my hen has the piercing cackle of a werewolf on fire. She does not sound like a Swiss yodeler, nor can I convince myself that her ear-shattering serenades, which are 20 minutes in length, are enjoyable. She is not laying an egg either. This hen is standing upon the wooden crate we have in the far corner of the coop and yelling at the world. Her tone is strident and vicious and vaguely politically-slanted.
Perhaps that is it. Perhaps she is finished. Through. Kaput. Could it be that my hen is speaking for all downtrodden hens? Does she feel strongly about our egg eating? Perhaps she is fighting against chicken atrocities and egg abduction.
Who knows? I do not claim to know the mind of a hen; I would love to listen with empathy, to hear her plight, but sadly, I cannot.
I'm afraid if I do, she will shatter my eardrums.
It was windy enough to trigger a small craft advisory. Yet here comes a flameskimmer dragonfly (Libellula saturata) around noon on Monday, Memorial Day, circling our little bee garden. He chases a few flying insects around and then perches on a bamboo...
Caught in flight: Flameskimmer dragonfly,Libellula saturata. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A flameskimmer dragonfly, Libellula saturata, perches on a bamboo stake. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Small craft advisory! A gust of wind tousles the wings of Big Red, the flameskimmer dragonfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A different view. Flameskimmer dragonfly on his bamboo perch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Los Angeles Times. However, because of the state's four-year drought, three-quarters of the cattle in San Luis Obispo County have been sold or taken out of state. The sell-off brought in a record $129 million last year.
"We see clearly what a bust cycle looks like," said Mark Battany, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources viticulture and soils advisor in SLO County. "Ranchers have no choice but to sell off their cows and rebuild the herd when the rain comes back."
Sahagun reported that ranchers in the area have suffered severe drought for centuries.
"During a drought that ended in 1864, some ranchers drove their herds off cliffs and into the ocean below to stop their suffering," the article said.
The current drought is leaving landowners few options. The county placed a two-year moratorium on new agriculture that depending on the aquifer, so rangeland can't be converted to vineyards at the moment.
"Ranchers are getting hit hard from every direction," said Royce Larsen, UC ANR natural resource watershed advisor in SLO County. "It's a grim and desperate outlook."
Other news over the weekend included:
Holy S***! Almonds require a ton of bees
Tom Philpott, Mother Jones, May 25, 2015
Growing almonds in California takes about 1.7 million bee hives, drawing a large fraction of the nation's available bee hives. Why don't they stay in California? The state is already home to 500,000 of the nation's 2.7 million hives, said Eric Mussen, UC ANR specialist emeritus based at UC Davis. The almond bloom is great for a few weeks, but in terms of year-round foraging, "California is already at or near its carrying capacity for honeybees," he said.
Farm Beat: Here is how hikers, cattle can coexist
John Holland, Modesto Bee, May 22, 2015
UC ANR released a five-page brochure last month that shows how hikers and other visitors can avoid conflicts with cattle that graze on public land. Cattle fatten up nicely when they can graze calmly – good for the rancher and good for the buyer of the meat down the line, the story said.
Down on the farm...the Loma Vista Farm.... When the Loma Vista Farm--part of the Vallejo City Unified School District--recently hosted its annual Spring Festival, scores of folks came to see the animals, buy a plant or two, and participate in the many...
A farmer's hand and a very beneficial insect, the lady beetle, aka ladybug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A beneficial insect, the lady beetle (far left), and a pest, the spotted cucumber beetle, share a leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A Western tiger swallowtail, Papilio rutulus, forages on a butterfly bush at the Loma Vista Farm, Vallejo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A colony of yellow-faced bumble bees, Bombus vosnesenskii, works throughout the Loma Vista Farm's Spring Festival. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The caterpillar of an anise swallowtail, Papilio zelicaon, munches on fennel or anise, the host plant. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)