Category Archives: spring

2011 Mason Bees

Here’s a montage of the 2010 mason bees:

I have written about our mason bees before:
In March 2010, when we installed the bee house.
Again in March, when they started to emerge.
When they filled the first hole in April 2010.
We checked on their progress in May 2010.
In June 2010, when activity slowed down in the bee house.
And, finally, in February 2011 when they were all quietly waiting for spring.

But a lot has happened between now and then, and somehow I never got back here to do a 2011 clean-up and re-start mason bee post. Now it’s June again and I haven’t written a thing about them. This generation of mason bees has some serious second child neglect. Please don’t tell them you prefer photos of fluffy adorable chicks.

In March 2011, I brought the mason bee house inside and cleaned it out. This is important because I left the bee house outside all summer, which meant that summer bees built on top of spring bees. So when the spring bees hatched, they would either die because they couldn’t get out, or kill the summer bees on their way out. Ideally, a person might have a system to accommodate both spring and summer bees but, well, we’re experimenting. Anyway, I cleaned out the bee house.

Inside, each tube has layers from the front to the back.
mud wall – cocoon – frass (waste products) – mud wall – cocoon – frass (repeat)

A single cocoon looks like this:

Then we hung the house out again, nice and clean. I put all the cocoons in an up-cycled yogurt container. Krista asked me why I insisted on stuffing garbage into our cute bee house, so I guess I need a new strategy for next year.

The weather this year has been, in one word, awful and the masons have struggled accordingly. We have seen some activity around the house, like this little lady. It was a relief to spot her after I had almost given up on any mason bees this year.

They filled the first hole at the beginning of May — later than last year. The bees seemed busy every nice day we had, but there weren’t many. Now it is June and the mason bee season has passed. Forgive this stylized camera phone photo; we got new cell phones and I’m a little obsessed. This is the progress they made.

At this time last year we had 20 mud-filled holes. This year, we have 12. I read the Cliff Mass Weather Blog, which has great information on western Washington weather patterns, and they are reporting:

The new numbers for the average March through May temperatures at Sea-Tac are in, and by any reasonable measure (average temperature, average maximum), this has been the coldest March through May at Sea-Tac since dependable records are available (1956).

Lets begin by viewing the 5 coldest springs ( average daily temperature for March-May) in the last 55 years from 1957 through 2011 at SeaTac:

1) 2011 47.6
2) 1975 47.8
3) 2002 47.9
4) 1964 48.0
5) 1962 48.0

My bee experiences are only anecdotal, but I suspect this weather affected my mason bees. Other western Washington beekeepers are reporting normal to good mason bee production this year, so maybe it’s just me. Furthermore, I hypothesize that some of our mason bees are using alternate accommodations – cracks between the wood shingle siding of our house, perhaps? I am not going to excavate the siding to find out, but I have seen enough bees buzzing around to think it might be true.

Last year, we had a flurry of summertime solitary bee activity. I don’t know what species they are, but they managed to fill another 8 holes before fall. So now I’m waiting for the summer bee activity – we have plenty of room for them, obviously.


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Day 11!!

Today we had a very dramatic moment during the photo shoot. Elsa, our numskull cat, climbed into the chick brooder while we were taking photos. Fortunately, Elsa is inadequate at everything she tries to do and she caused no damage to the chickees. She has been a little too interested in them since the first day they arrived (see below), and I have caught her actually sitting on the wire mesh lid of the brooder staring at the chicks. If that were me, I would have already planned out how I was going to eat each delectable chick morsel. But Elsa, the world’s most gloriously incompetent cat, only got a free trip to the backyard.

Jimmy Rabies is a bit more of a go-getter, but he spends most of his time hunting things outdoors so the domestic chicks are, frankly, not very interesting to him. He almost yawns when he watches them. (see below)

Daily Weigh-In:
Pepper 2 and 1/4
Ramona 2 and 3/8
Lenora 2 and 3/4
Cry-Baby 2 and 5/8
Hatchet-Face 1 and 1/4
Everyone gained 1/8 oz !!! Even Hatchet-Face! I guess that is a good rate of growth for baby chicks (I have no idea. I was not a 4H kid or anything.)

Hatchet-face is hanging tough. She’s still in isolation, but she seems a little more lively. You can tell she’s under the weather, and she’s looking a little rough with the vitamins all over her face. Here’s her Day 11 Best Shot:

Pepper Walker!

I have no idea if this is normal for chickens, but ours like to recline in Krista’s palm. Pepper likes it most of all. She looks like a little penguin in a beach chair when she does this, and she will sit there pretty much forever.

Today Lenora learned to fly to the top of the watering jar. She’s the most advanced flyer so far. She probably always will be. We plan to clip her wings when they become free-rangers. She doesn’t know that yet. No need to crush her dreams this early.

Ramona is having trouble staying still for her daily photos, so she perched on my hand. Yesterday I tried to get her to perch on my finger like this but she couldn’t do it. Her coordination and balance just weren’t there. Today, she did it! I was so surprised and amazed at her new skill. I think she was pleased, too.

And last but never, ever least, Cry-baby Walker. She was just grooming her feathers, but I imagine this pose as a formal bow. If she was doing yoga, this would be her uttanasana.


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Day 10!

First order of business, there are SO many photos of these chicks. I recommend that you check out Krista’s set of chick photos if you find yourself wanting more or missing them between blog updates. I review the chick set a few times a day to cleanse my soul of the ugliness of the world.

Day 10!! They are growing so fast and turning into such BIRDS right before our eyes. They are eating a lot. I filled their feeder as I normally would when I got home from work, and I had to re-fill it before bed! Two words: Oink. Oink.

Today’s weigh-in:
Pepper 2 and 1/8
Ramona 2 and 1/4
Lenora 2 and 5/8
Cry-Baby 2 and 1/2
Hatchet-Face 1 and 1/8
Everyone gained weight, except Hatchet.

Lenora Frigid. Don’t you think her name should be in cursive? She is such a graceful, lovely bird. It is hard to believe that her breed is the number one breed used for large-scale commercial egg production in the United States. (seriously) Her favorite thing is to stretch and flap her wings, so I really can’t imagine her in a 12″x12″ cage.

Lenora made a strong statement about how she was “completely done” with this photo shoot.

Ramona Rickettes is constantly in motion.

You know what makes a perfect prop for chicken photo shoots? A vintage salt and pepper shaker collection. Thankfully we don’t actually eat salt and pepper out of these. This is titled, “A Stately Bird.”

Cry-Baby Walker still has very little interest in me beyond my role as treat-provider and fresh-water-fetcher, but her lovely peach-colored feathers are captivating.

Also. This.

Pepper Walker posed with a swan salt shaker. She was genuinely puzzled by this. It was like that scene from Drop Dead Gorgeous:
“Who are you?!” Oh Mary, you kill me. She always says that. It’s a little game we play. Every week – same dippy little look on her face. “Who are you – who are you?” Just like that. It’s me – Your Friend, The Ceramic Swan!

Pepper was kind enough to show off her wings today. Lovely, no?

Hatchet-face nearly slept through her photo shoot. Her face is filthy because she got a nice dose of vitamin booster. Maybe the vitamins will be her pick-me-up, and some day we will show her these photos and laugh together, “Remember when you were sick and we were soooo worried?” And she will say, “Ba-Gock!!” Fingers Crossed. Hatchet, everyone’s rooting for you!


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Day 9!

We started weighing the chooks today. I kind of wish we had started weighing them at the beginning like a science fair project, but we are using the relative weights of the birds mostly to measure the progress (or lack there of) of sweet, sickly Hatchet-face who is now in isolation in her own little box, with her own food and water and special vitamin booster regime. We appreciate your kind words and well wishes for her speedy recovery, and an extra THANK YOU!! to everyone who offered/lent food, watering devices, advice, feeders and medicine in the interest of her best possible care. I read all of your messages to her and she was very glad for the encouragement. And we are glad for it too. It is comforting to feel less alone in our sadness and worry for a tiny, 9-day-old chick.

In any case, here is the result of their Day 9 weigh-in:
Pepper 2 ounces
Ramona 2 ounces
Lenora 2 and 3/8 ounces
Cry-Baby 2 and 1/4 ounces
Hatchet-Face 1 and 1/4 ounces
So, you can see our concern for drowsy little Hatchet is warranted.

Without further ado, let’s catch up on the photos.


Here’s Ramona’s Best Shot

Lenora Frigid

Pepper Walker, who has been so cooperative this week

And little Hatchet-face, doing her best Big Bird impersonation

No bonus shots today. The photographer is switching her awake hours for work and had little time or tolerance for hi-jinx during this shoot.

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Day 8!: All is not well in the world of the peepers.

Our precious Hatchet-face is struggling to hang on. I admit I got a little sad about it and skipped a day of chick-blogging. But that’s not fair, is it? Life is a delicate thing. She’s listless and drowsy. She peeps nearly constantly if we are not holding her. She tries to eat and drink, but doesn’t seem to be very successful at either. She’s much smaller than her sisters; she weighs 1.25 ounces, while everyone else is weighing in over 2 oz. She sleeps too much. She’s far too docile and cooperative for a week-old chick. Suffice to say, we’re trying to be practical and realistic about her future, but it’s difficult when she is so sweet and innocent. We have all suffered the loss of a beloved pet, but this is a sore moment. It’s hard to tell what is wrong with chicks. She doesn’t have pasty butt. We treated them all for cocci the first day she seemed listless. She is isolated with special food and medicated water with boosters in it. Her keep-on-keeping-on-ness is our greatest hope right now. If you have any “healthy chick” spells, pls cast them in her direction. If you’re a chicken expert, leave some advice.

Here is Hatchet’s day 8 photo:

Pepper Walker

Crybaby Walker

Lenora Frigid

Ramona Rickettes

Bonus shot: Hatchet, Pepper & Ramona in a classic “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” pose


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Seven days Earthside

Today, Lenora napped during her photo shoot.

Pepper managed to stay awake and not poop in the light box. Let’s all give Pepper a round of applause for this accomplishment.

Hatchet-face shows off her lovely cheek plumage. She knows it’s lovely because we tell her 500 times a day.

Ramona was very concerned about the possibility of treats in the light box.

Cry-baby went for the tired old joke. Guess What? Chicken Butt!
(You knew we had to go there eventually.)

Today’s bonus shot is one of Lenora & Hatchet-face cuddling. Have you seen a pile of sleeping chicks? It slays me. This is a small sample.


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6 days old!

Day 6 already! It’s hard to believe our little flock has been earth-side for almost a week. I’m glad you can’t see our living room, which has the dining room tables pulled around the brooder. This is family time – watching ChickTV together. We have not accomplished much in the past week garden- or coop-wise because these peepers are so entertaining.

Ramona Quimby-Rickettes. No one has anything bad to say about this chicken. She is beautiful, brave and smart. She is friendly. She cuddles, but somehow maintains her independent spirit. She was the first to eat little treats from our hands. She took a nap on my wife yesterday. It almost killed me – Krista & Ramona cuddling on the couch.

And Ramona is always good for a miniature dinosaur pose.

Pepper Walker. Pepper is still a calm, sweet chick. She hasn’t pooped on anyone in two whole days. No amount of drama or shenanigans can ruffle Pepper’s feathers.

I found out last night that my friend Panda’s favorite is Pepper. She wants to dedicate this photo to him.

Hatchet-Face has become a very sweet chick in the past day. She naps in my hands. She runs to me and lets me scoop her up. I gave her a little bath and she didn’t scream the whole time. It’s such a 180 degree change in personality that I was worried that something was wrong with her. How can a chicken go from hating you to loving you in 12 hours? Oh, maybe it’s because she learned about treats. Now she gazes at me adoringly whenever I come near the brooder. If they don’t give you love, buy it.

Lenora Frigid is a food-motivated chick who, like Hatchy, has experienced an attitude adjustment since we introduced the concept of treats to their small world. She is patient in the photography studio and can hold a pose for longer than any of her sisters.

As an adult, Lenora will be pure white, so she is pale yellow as a chick. I think she is pretty, although Krista is quick to point out that she has big ears.

Cry-baby Walker…. Krista captured the quintessential spirit of the buff orpington chick in this photo: a little bull-headed battle axe puffball of a chick. Cry-baby is the chick that hates me the most. When she sees me, she runs. I offer treats, she steals them from her sisters who are brave enough to eat from my hand. I scoop her up and cuddle her, and scream-peeping ensues with wild winglet flapping. I hope she grows out of this. Levi says she is sweet, but maybe she thinks Levi is her mom.

My favorite thing about Cry-baby is this photo. it is positively presidential. If a chick could run for president, this would be her campaign photo. I would write in this chicken!

President Cry-Baby

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Five Days Old!

The babes continue to grow feathers & stretch out a little taller every day. Their favorite activities are sleeping, eating, sleeping, pooping, eating, drinking water, peeping, and chasing each other around. Without further ado, the 5-day-old portraits.

Crybaby Walker

Lenora Frigid

Pepper Walker. Pepper actually took a little nap while she was being photographed. World’s most laid-back chick.


Ramona Quimby-Rickettes. Good lord, isn’t she an adorable chick?

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Baby Chicks: Day 4

Krista built a light box to photograph our little babies, and I am in love with the photos she has captured of the babyhood of these little birds. It’s predictable, but goodness they grow so fast. They have little wing feathers, and they seem bigger every six hours.

Ramona Rickettes


Lenora Frigid

Crybaby Walker

And Pepper Walker, who is the sweetest chick of them all. If you put your hand in the brooder, she runs right to you. If you cuddle her, she goes to sleep right in your hand. She is precious.

And here are a couple outtakes:

Hatchetface in action

Lenora is growing a comb


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Birth Announcement

We are proud to welcome five new ladies to our little family. They are puffing, fluffing, eating, pooping, pecking and peeping around their new home. They seem completely nonplussed by the cross-country voyage on their first day of life, thankfully.

the barred plymouth rock

the welsummer

the leghorn

the easter egger with her fluffy cheeks which i am dying to pinch omg

the buff orpington

The scene around the house is like this:

Which, translated to human, looks like this:

We are all quite smitten with them, and who could blame us? They are cuddly, soft and warm. They are an iconic level of cuteness. There is a real, farmerly contentedness to waking up in the morning and hearing a chorus of peeps. Name announcements to follow, when the Naming Council reaches their final decisions.


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