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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Decoy Eggs

Our chickens have a 3 storey apartment. I had placed a small basket on the 3rd storey to give Maggie some privacy when brooding eggs. My problem was that she did not know the use of that basket. She laid 2 eggs on the ground floor, after much shredding of newspaper.

To teach her to use the basket, I placed her 1st egg inside it. Unfortunately, this egg had a super thin shell (because she was somewhat undernourished when she arrived). When Maggie sat on it, it broke. At that, both Maggie and Maxi proceeded to eat up their own egg.

I was upset that I had lost that first egg to chicken cannibalism. So, I kept watch for the 2nd egg getting laid. When I saw Maggie peck at it, I took the egg. There is something magical about a still warm egg.

So, I ate it. Yumzz...

Soft boiled Maggie's egg.

Thus far, Maggie has laid 2 eggs and there are still none left. How about that for a PSLE Math problem? 

Maggie laid 2 eggs. How many are left?

Me, I had 2 real life problems... 
(1) Maggie did not know where to lay her eggs in the cage, 
(2) Maggie is an egg cannibal. 

So, I asked the fellas on Raising Chickens 101 Facebook group. They advised me to get decoy eggs. Putting decoy eggs in the nesting box is one way to show the hens where to lay their eggs and brood. These decoy eggs are also inedible. Thus, the hens learn that it is no use pecking them. 

I bought a clutch of plastic eggs. I placed 2 in the basket. Apparently, hens can count. So, I am quite sure Maggie knows that she has laid 2 eggs already. After some serious pecking, by nightfall, Maggie was dutifully sitting on 2 plastic eggs. This morning, she laid a 3rd egg inside the basket. She did not peck this one.

Plastic eggs from Chong Pang market.

Maggie sitting on 2 plastic eggs last night.

2 fake eggs and 1 real egg. Go on! Guess which one is the real one.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Margaret and Maximilian

Here are our Wyandotte Bantam chickens. See HERE. Believe it or not, they are British. The fertilised eggs were flown in from U.K. The, they were locally incubated and hatched. The hen is a golden laced Wyandotte Bantam. The rooster is a chocolate partridge Wyandotte Bantam.

The normal Wyandotte breed is double the size of the Bantam version. In space scarce Singapore, the Bantam version is all I can cope with I think.

Margaret, the hen, has already laid 1 egg. We can feel 2 more eggs on the way inside her butt. She will probably lay another one tomorrow. My helper (with 2 decades of experience in chicken raising) thinks they should lay an egg everyday. However, in her opinion, both are a bit undernourished. I intend to fatten them up real good so that they will give me good eggs with strong shells. 

I have unhusked rice, corn grits, pearl barley, mung beans, gram beans and meal worms. They love sprouted mung beans and meal worms.

Margaret and Maximilian.

Margaret and Maximilian again.

Nesting basket.

First egg.

The hanging water dispenser (they step all over the bowl and dirty the water). 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Incompetent and Lazy

I don't even know what we were talking about when The Son said something that I had never heard him say before. He said, "Oh! That guy is the most lazy and incompetent person I have ever met."

As a mother, I have spent 17 years of his life thinking that if I am not careful, my son would be lazy and incompetent. I have carried with me the thought that if I did not watch him carefully, he would skive and not give his best to his endeavours.

To hear him pass judgment thus on a fellow 17 year old was quite a shock to me. It seemed like a Father speaking. Of course, there are many lazy and incompetent fathers. So, age is no indication of maturity. Still, he looks so young and I had yet to lay down the burden of being custodian of his character and his morals.

So, I remarked to him that I am a little surprised that he would thus judge his peer. I said, "Don't all teens empathise with all teens about working hard? Nobody wants to work hard surely?"

My son looked at me, eyes wide. He said, "Mom! No one wants to work hard. If you ask me, I would rather play. The reason why I am gonna do this specimen now is so that I needn't do it tomorrow. The reason why I would do it tomorrow if I did not do it now is so that I can get good results at IB. The reason why I want good results at IB is that I want a future that is secure enough to finance things I wanna do for fun. I am doing this now so that I can have fun in future!"

Then, he continued, "All of us wanna have fun. I wouldn't judge another boy for wanting to play. However, it is reprehensible when a person is completely incapable of controlling himself enough to stop playing for a bit in order to discharge his duties to others and self."

Wow! My boy has become a man.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sulphur Soap

Where has this soap been all my life? It is simply good ol' soap with micronised sulphur incorporated. Sulphur is a known miticide (it kills mites) and fungicide (it kills fungus). My chilli plants are prone to broadmites. These mites are so small you cannot see them with the naked eye. You only know they are there when leaves begin to look rough and wrinkled instead of smooth and fat. Chilli plants are especially susceptible. They may be micron sized insects but they are redoubtable pests. They can kill the plant if allowed to.

Kudos to Dr. Wilson Wong for this inventive and organic pest control method.

1 teaspoon of sulphur soap flakes dissolved in 1litre of water, sprayed daily onto plant leaves, does wonders. The mites all die and my chilli plants produce beautiful new leaves. This thing works on spider mites too - the bane of every rose bush and butterfly pea plant!

Best thing of all, using sulphur as a pesticide is allowed in organic farming because sulphur is an important nutrient for plants. The only downside is that an excess of sulphur in the soil tends to acidify the soil. Unless you are growing gardenias, your plants will have problems uptaking nutrients when the ph level of the soil is too low.

This is such a cheap low class soap that you cannot find it in NTUC Fairprice nor in Cold Storage. One needs to go to Valu$ where it is retailed at $0.50 per bar. It does not even appear in Sheng Siong!

I first bought 4. Then, I bought 10 because the 4 got used up really fast.

I opened one for the plants. My maid took one to bathe Milo, and it cured him of the eczema that he has had for years. My son took one for his face (because it helps acne). The Husband and I took one for scalp health because it kills the fungus that causes dandruff and itchy scalp. Then, the maid asked me for one to bathe herself because she said that her hands felt so clean after bathing Milo.

It can be drying for the rest of my skin but it works really well for my t-zone (which gets so oily that I need to wash it 5 times a day). I use the sulphur soap once every 2 days to remove oil and dead skin cells.

It also has keratolytic action (i.e., it breaks down the outer layer of dead skin cells), thus saving me the bother of exfoliating. The Husband never exfoliates so I am happy that his skin and scalp get exfoliated a few times a week when he uses this soap. The best thing, though, is that Milo has stopped his incessant scratching. We were so naive. We used all sorts of expensive pet soaps on him when a 50 cents bar of sulphur soap would have done better.

Cheap is not necessarily bad. Some of the most organic soaps (without a ton of additives) are the old brands that my Grandma used. Back in those days, big Pharma hadn't done that much research and chemical additives had not been invented. Soap was just soap.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Impressionism: National Gallery of Art, Singapore

I did not know about this exhibition until The Daughter mentioned that she was going with her JC classmates. There is something about Impressionist Art that appeals to me. I don't know what, though. I have liked Impressionist Art for years. Except for some Italian Renaissance Art (Caravaggio, whose portrayals of biblical scenes in all their blood and gore fascinates me) and some Dutch painters (Vermeer, whose ability to paint light is breathtaking), I don't really connect with many paintings. Not even Michelangelo nor Leonardo da Vinci nor Picasso nor Salvador Dali nor Andy Warhol.

I know these are good artists and very famous but the emotional connection is just not there. Since I cannot paint and know nothing about painting technique, my evaluation of art is very simple. Does it fascinate me or not?

What fascinates about Impressionism is how the artists make use of how the brain interprets images. Many impressionist paintings can only be appreciated from afar. I actually have a bear beanbag that is Impressionistic. From afar, we see a brown bear. Up close, the bear is coloured with spots of black, bright red and bright yellow. No brown. However, the combination of the little points of colour creates convincing light and shadow. From afar, my bear looks quite real.

I like almost all impressionist and post-Impressionist art. So, I got REALLY excited when I found out that there was an Impressionist Exhibition in town - 60 works from the Musée d'Orsay. My visit to the Musée d'Orsay 20+ years ago was a defining moment in my life. I have never gotten over my emotional connection to Degas, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec. I am not sure about Van Gogh because one sees him so often that one has viewer fatigue.

Unfortunately, there was not a single Degas nor Toulouse-Lautrec in the exhibition. I was a bit disappointed. Still, until I next go to Paris and block out 3 whole days to spend at the Musée d'Orsay, this exhibition will have to do. See HERE.

The Musée d'Orsay itself is fascinating. It used to be Gare d'Orsay (a train station). That day when I visited Musée d'Orsay so many years ago really is an indelible memory. I don't know why the place and the paintings moved me so much.

The painting box of Renoir and the palette of Degas.

Painting by Monet.

Another Monet.

A Manet.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Fertiliser in Bulk

This is 75kgs worth of fertiliser. There is Guanito (a mixture of different animals' poop with NPK 6:15:3 + 10CaO + 2MgO) and Phenix (also a mixture of different animals' poop with NPK of 6:8:15 + 2MgO). There is also agricultural grade magnesium sulphate (MgSO4). These are my go to fertilisers of choice (in addition to worm poop from my vermi-composting bins and my kitchen waste compost in the veggie composting bin). All are treated organic fertilisers.

The results from this combination of fertilisers are amazing. I raved about it to the Mother-in-law and she nodded politely. I could tell she was not convinced. So, I started my clandestine fertilising operation of her garden. I fertilised 1/4 of her garden and left the rest. After 3 weeks, when she began wondering why that particular area was growing so well, I told her the truth.

She was sold!

Our gentle Malay neighbour bore witness to my clandestine ferting operations. She too was sold on these ferts. So, I bought 75kgs of fertilisers and shared it 3 ways. 

Fertilised balsa plants - fat and sturdy.

Unfertilised balsa plants - skinny and diseased.

Fat and healthy veggies.

Fat and healthy veggies.