Thursday, January 1, 2009

Winter Days on the Farm

"Farm"... my real farming friends will laugh when they read this. We have a five acre "hobby farm" (title of one of my favorite mags) in the Midwest. We keep chickens, ducks, geese, two elderly equines (a pony and a mini) and four dogs, two cats. We had a rabbit and turkeys, and in the ways of nature, they have gone on before us.

We are two months into the winter chore season, and getting up at 5:30 on these cold mornings to feed before work is a chore in itself. The pugs keep us warm in bed, and it's hard to pull away from that cuddly warmth to go shower and go out and carry water buckets and feed buckets. Despite the fact winter officially started on December 21st, the dark and cold has been going on since the first of November where we live. I sing to the chickens as I open the coop in the morning, and they are awake and complaining about the cold, too. Most of them stay in during the cold days, but the hardy ones, Rambo and his harem, go out and peck around in the pasture. We don't even lock the gate to the chicken yard at this time of year, so the ducks and geese can come and go at night. Their straw fort around the bottom of the stilted little chicken house keeps them warm and protected from the elements.

The equines need a trim... we neglected it during the hustle bustle of December, and Lacey, the mini mare, is paying for it now. She is walking on ouchy hooves, and we realized it today when we picked them out. We will call Jerad in the morning, our farrier, and he will come and make her hooves good again. He is a pleasure to watch, all gentleness and slowness and carefulness... we like to be here to watch him work, he is a true horseman where we are amateurs only. He raises beautiful purebred Arabians, and we envy his horses from afar. Until we have water to the horseyard and henyard, though, we are maintaining numbers where they are, since our backs will not cooperate further!

Today Lilly, our mixed hunting dog, caught another chicken. She caught Birdy, the sole survivor of the seven chicks hatched by our turkey hen Helen last summer. The night they hatched, a snake got into the dog house where they slept, and got three of them, and Helen trampled several in her haste to get out. Only two survived, and we called them "The Birdbrain Twins" because even though we took them from their "mother", they remained nutty. One disappeared as a six month old pullet, and we found her body parts days later. The other, now called Birdy, must have come over the henyard fence to freedom late this morning, and been caught by Lilly Ann, Hunter Supreme. The Husband says any bird coming over has signed it's own death warrant, but I have seen tears in his eyes many times finding their bodies, or having to put them out of their misery. I followed the trail of feathers in the yard, and found Birdy under the arm of a wheelbarrow upturned for winter, hiding in plain sight. She had been raked across the bottom and behind, and suffered some bad wounds, but we applied antibiotic, and made her a warm bed of straw in the nursing cage. She has food and water and is moving around, so we are hoping for the best for her. She is a Rambo daughter, and a fine specimen. Only the next few days will tell if she becomes infected and we have to put her down, but we will nurse her along and see. Rambo has survived two dog attacks (savage ones) and is blind in one eye, but made it through and is still the strong leader of the flock.

The wild geese have been moving from the bean and corn fields east of us, over our heads to open water hereabouts. We have seen thousands of them at dawn and dusk these last two weeks, and I keep trying to capture them on still camera and new movie camera, which I am not good at using yet. If I can get decent pictures, I'll post them for everyone to see.

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