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Friday, May 27, 2011

The inmates are running the asylum today

Ahhhh, we've all had one of those days, haven't we?
Yup, just one of those days.

But when you've got a little farm going, having "one of those days" is a whole new experience.

  It started normally enough. Handsome goes to bed early and I take the night shift, do the last check, shut down the house, stay up with our nocturnal Spud if he needs it. So while he gets up nice and early, I sleep in till 8. Sometimes even 8:30. Very late, I know.
  This morning, just as I was opening my eyes, there was a horrible chicken-shriek in the back of the house that launched me out of bed like being shot from a cannon. One of our hens is missing, I was hoping that she went broody - though if she has she's probably drowned by now with the weather we've been having. No, I'm serious. But if another is gone then it's a fox or a coon, and possibly rabid if it's that close to the house in broad daylight!
  I go dashing out in a flannel shirt, ahem, only a flannel shirt, to find nothing. Absolutely nothing. The birds look at me as if I'm insane. I consider the fact that I may be insane, standing in my backyard in a flannel shirt holding a stick.

  As I ponder this, the pigs come up to say hello. Because they have broken out of their pen. They have been practicing beating up the gate, so I go down to assess the damage. Only to find, once again, nothing. The gate is in one piece and latched shut, the electric wire is functioning well, the wire mesh fence behind it is in perfect shape. Perhaps they used The Force to lift each other up and over. No treats are coming, so they happily grunt off to root up some poison ivy and I am glad to leave them to it. I want coffee and pants.

  I see that I have missed a call from one of Punkins little friends while I have been outside. It's past time for the kids to be up anyway. I tell Punkin that she can call her friend. But unfortunately, she, likely in a fog of pre-adolescent hormones, seems to be trying to discover just how much backtalk she can give me before I convert to a religion that sacrifices their firstborn. And the long and the short was that now she can call her friend back after she gets her morning chores done - and it would probably be a good idea to not speak to me again until they are. Feeling horribly wronged, she bursts into tears and stomps off, presumably to get her morning chores done.

  At this point Spud is up, and also cranky, and I am late giving our baby goat her bottle. Honeysuckle the goat is still in a pen in our kitchen. The weather here has been beyond foul and it's been easier to just have her here then re-work the goat shed so she has her own stall. Though I am considering just building an entirely new goat shed and giving their old one to the chickens, who have been laying all over.
  Last week, apparently by bribing a cat, Honeysuckle managed to pull a half a loaf of what bread into her pen and eat it. True disaster was averted, but her tummy has been fussy ever since and this morning she decides to give me heart palpitations by jumping all over me for her bottle and then not drinking. I leave Spud with Punkin and bring Honeysuckle out to do the rest of the morning rounds with me. Perhaps that will perk up her appetite.

  Getting the rest of the chores done, I come back in to discover that Punkin's sick coturnix that she has been nursing has died. Spud, who doesn't like to eat until he's been up for a while, has gotten over some cranky and is ready to eat. Honeysuckle isn't. I sit down to give him breakfast and get on the computer. Perhaps one of my goat friends will give me some advice.

  I am not too long into this when a car pulls up. It is Punkin's friend and her mom, here to pick Punkin up for a sleepover. This is news to me.
  It seems little friend had told her mom that she had spoken to Punkin and Punkin had spoken to me and it was ok. There was a message on my machine. We spoke to little friend about the whole process of making plans and I let Punkin go. Happy surprise for her.
  Not so happy surprise for me after they drive off and I discover that none of her morning chores are done.
Now I get to do them.
I am already behind, the skies are threatening so my laundry still isn't hung, the neighbor's chicks are peeping in my incubator, waiting to be delivered, and when I go back inside, Spud, who we've been letting go without a diaper for a couple of hours after every BM because he's been getting rashes, poops on the floor while I am boxing chicks.
And the pigs are up by the house again.

I call the neighbor who, is happy to come get her chicks. But when she does, the ducklings and goslings promptly follow her home, as they like the yellow clover in her yard much more then the grass in mine. I go to get them and 4 pigs, assorted cats, Deacon and a dancing baby goat try to follow me over. I tell her that I will come grab them as soon as I'm not a one woman parade. As I walk down to return the pigs to the drycreek, I look over and see the big, CX hen that we were going to butcher this afternoon is sprawled out. She had been slowing down and we thought it was time, but she had been fine an hour ago. I remembered a rooster courting her. It seems she went the way politicians sometimes do.
There goes Memorial day dinner.

The neighbor takes pity on me and herds the fuzzies back over. They are irresistible to hold at this stage. I decide to try to salvage the breast meat. Bertha was a big girl and that's a lot of meat. I get it done as quickly as possible, slap up a quick pen, pray it holds the fuzzies in at least for the afternoon, lock up the pigs, who are back up at the house, hope they don't teleport themselves back out and bring Spud in for a nap. For a miracle he actually falls asleep. For another, now Honeysuckle wants her bottle.

I am wiped, still no coffee, my laundry is still wet in a hamper on the table, sky keeps getting darker but no rain and I decide that while he is asleep I am going to ignore everything, sit on the computer and eat Cocoa Crispies. Not that I even like Cocoa Crispies but they are the only chocolate in the house. And I never did get around to my own breakfast - or lunch, for that matter. It's after 3 now.

Handsome will be home from work soon. He has a sit-down job in an air-conditioned building. He wonders why, sometimes, when he gets home I just hand him Spud, wave at everything, tell him "Yours" and disappear for an hour.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Postally Challenged.`

Ok, I admit it. I am Postally Impaired. I promised to send out a prize. Well, my box was small and it broke rather locally and I got it back.

So I decided to send a different prize. And the kids and I made some lovely blown Easter eggs. And then I turned my back and little Spud - who adores eggs and finds them oh-so-satisfying to hold in his little hands - got a hold of them. With predictable results.

So I decided to buy LOTS of bubble wrap and go back to plan A and just package really well. And that's as far as I got. I have the address label written out, bubble wrap wrapped up tight in bigger boxes from the PO - and  there is all sat, ready to go, in the back seat of the car. Which my sweet husband takes to work with him from before the PO opens and gets home right after it closes.

And everytime I look in the back seat I kick myself because I STILL haven't gotten it into the actual postal system and someone is waiting for it and I am scum.

Do you know what makes it worse? I still have my mother's last birthday card, and I don't even want to know how many letters, many of which made it into stamped envelopes, dating all the way back to '95. And the package in question is snuggled up next to a package buddy who also needs mailed and is in the package limbo that is my car.

This must be an actual mental disability and there should be a support group or a medication or something. But TODAY I have DEFEATED my disability and finally got it in the mail.

About Time!
I bet you want to know what I sent.
I will only say it is yummy and beautiful and I will post the recipe next week.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rooster update

And the next day, Big Red came home. I went and spoke to the neighbor, he's a nice old guy. As these roosters will probably just keep walking back, I've promised him 2 other roosters who don't already know the way after he's finished working on his pen. Their wings will be clipped before they leave and they'll be penned (rather then yarded) with all the ladies for a few days to encourage them to stay.
Or, when he's ready, I may give him a few chicks. Whichever he prefers.
He swears he's seen our dog back, though he's been kept on leash, even in the house (so no chance of going out the un-screened window) since then.
Ah, well. We don't have the only beagle in the world.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Laddie came Home

Well actually, his name is Prince.
And he's a rooster.
And now I'm sure you want the whole long story.

  A few days ago, a neighbor comes by. We have never met this neighbor before,  but know where he lives, through the woods and over the creek as the crow flies, and down the road and around the corner as the car travels. He wants to know if we have a big brown dog with no hair.
We tell him we have a beagle. <who, by they way, is only big compared to other beagles, tri-color with flashy markings, and does, in fact, have hair>
That's him, the fellow tells us, and then tells us our dog killed his rooster.

I have no doubt that our beagle trespassed. We have permission for him to run rabbits on the property between us and this neighbor and if the rabbits don't respect a fence, neither does the hound hot on their tail. Having said that, it's a lot of ground and we had no idea Scooter wasn't still on it, as you can't always see the rabbitdog, that's why they bay, so you can hear them and know about where they are. If we had known he was that close to this fellow's property we'd have called him back.
I have vast doubt that our beagle killed a rooster. We have free-range chickens of every size and age here. From baby chicks that still get herded back into the brooder at night up to far too many roosters.Scooter is 3 years old and has never hurt any chicken, anywhere. And he doesn't even kill a rabbit when he catches it. He catches Mr. Cottontail alive and unharmed - if very winded.

Nevertheless, if a dog trespasses, around here if you don't see the hunter with it, you can shoot it, and we didn't mean for him to trespass. We apologized, said we'd never let it happen again, thanked the fellow, and offered him two roosters for the one he lost.

We scattered feed so we could catch them and he said he'd like the Rhode Island Red as that's what he lost (and inwardly I cursed, Big Red had a home for life here and many wives-to-be in the brooder) and that white fellow.
And Punkin's face fell because "that white fellow" was the speckled Prince, her favorite rooster. She had marked him as her own from nearly as soon as we opened the box from the hatchery. Prince didn't take any catching, she just walked up to him and picked him up and stroked him.

I was pretty sad as I put them both in the box, and wished he would have picked a Buff Orp or Barred Rock instead of the 2 exact roosters we'd wanted to keep, but he didn't have a choice about losing his rooster, whoever's dog killed it. And any rooster is a small price to pay for good neighbor relations and not having your rabbitdog shot over a misunderstanding.
But he was Punkin's favorite rooster, and a few tears were shed for him.

So you should have seen her face when he not only came home, but walked into the house to announce he was back.

Punkin is very happy. And Prince seems as happy as a chicken gets. He quickly found his favorite hen and then stretched out to sun, wing extended in total chicken relaxation. He keeps on coming up to the house, either to reassure himself that he is home, or to complain to the travel agent who forgot to book him a return trip.

And I have to go talk to the fellow and bring him a different rooster.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Small Frustrations

I have quail.
The quail were a pay-it-forward gift. The idea was, I got eggs for the price of shipping and the promise to send some future eggs to someone else.

This is definitely my sort of thing, and I quickly found a recipient for hatching eggs.

So, right on time, at 6 weeks, I got my first quail egg. YAY! The first egg is always such a thrill. But then, instead of steadily increasing production, I got dribs and drabs. I researched my management and feed. I checked for egg eaters. I moved them to bigger, nicer housing - which prompted a sulk and I didn't get a single egg for over 10 days. I took out all the males. I started putting males back one by one. (I realized that the first "males" I put back were just, uhh, modern-thinking hens).I blamed the weather, which was wonky and rainy and way-too-hot and then unseasonably cold. I told them I'd eat them all if I didn't start getting eggs.

Nothing worked.

But finally, like Leghorn chickens, Coturnix quail can not resist egg-laying forever. Finally I was consistently getting 3 eggs a day (still a sad and pitiful number). Then 5 and then 9. When I got 9 eggs for the 3rd day in a row and my pen of younger quail laid their first egg on that same third blessed day, I told my quail-egg recepient that I would start collecting them to mail out.

Since that day I have gotten Not One Egg.
Not just quail eggs.
There are no chicken eggs.
My Muscovy hen stopped disappearing for an hour a day to her secret nest.
There are no eggs, at all, anywhere.

What the heck?? Do I have a predator lurking? Is there an egg-eating snake around? Did something scare the snot out of everybody? Are the quail playing mind-games and the chickens sneaking off to lay next door?? WHAT??

And it's always when you want them too, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


We got pigs!
I am way happier then I thought I'd be.
I have raised pigs before - but they were never my pigs. I have worked on a lot of farms and for a couple of years was the One To Call if you had kids in 4H and needed a pet sitter. So yeah, I've worked with pigs.

I even liked pigs, in a casual, off-hand sort of way. I've always felt a strong sense of Not Mine when working with other people's livestock and do my best to not get attached. Either I'll be leaving or they'll be leaving. It is a hard balance to take the very best care of them you can, as good as if they were yours, doing whatever needs done even if it means going out in the cold rain in the middle of the night and mud up your boots and caring enough to do whatever it takes - with the knowledge that tomorrow you may need to load it on a truck and go about your day. For an owner these things are tempered with financial gain. But when you work there, there's no gain to cushion you.
You have to do it because you love it, while keeping your distance.

So I always tried to not really deal with pigs too much as they are personable critters and I probably wouldn't even get to taste the bacon. A lot of places it's easy. The pigs are confined, which makes them stink and they can be awfully aggressive.

But these are my pigs.
And they are cute and a little sweet and a little shy and I have them in a big pen, while we fence an even Bigger pen and it is so nice to watch them root and enjoy the space and sun and shade. They will eventually grow their way into a partially wooded 1 1/2 acres, so I don't foresee them getting too stinky.
One already likes her side scritched and will grunt and fall over.
 I am really liking the pigs.

Maybe I won't like them as much when they weigh 200+ pounds. Maybe I'll cry when it's time to load them. maybe I'll like them enough to keep one for breeding. We'll see. But right now I think I'll wander down to the pen and see what they're doing.