Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Long Week and a Long Day

I admit it, the heat has been brutal. 


The dogs are in most of the time in this heat. 
Jester, on top of it, had a bad bout of pancreatitus this past 
ten days.  We visited our dogtor, and he got some medicinal help. 


The deck plants were struggling, I literally water them 
several times a day.  I probably will not plant a dahlia in  
a container again, (dark plant with yellow flowers) as it 
must be kept wet constantly or it droops into nothingness. 

Oddly, the green container behind it, with ornamental peppers and 
lantana, is thriving on the heat. 

More of them next year. 


The zinnia beds were looking decent until the last three days, which is odd, 
because we had a drop in temps and some rain for a short time, yesterday. 

They are full of weeds.  Remember that I put bird net on top of them 
when I planted, to keep the chickens out.  BIG mistake, and one I won't 
repeat.  It kept me from weeding as they grew... and now it's a mess.  
I won't use netting again. 

The sunflowers were volunteers in the back bed. 


I have ONE vegetable, a tomato, growing in a container on the deck. 
I cut the bottom brown branches off of it yesterday, and I have picked one 
tomato, that had blossom end rot.  This is a Big Girl, and should be much 
bigger.  I would call the tomatoes bigger than cherry size, but they are not big. 

Probably my last tomatoes, and I used to grow many plants. 


Two nights ago, I unhooked the mower from it's cart, and took it to 
the small garage to put it in for the night, in case it rained. 
I found this. 

They do what they want to around here, obviously. 

Case in point. 


Note stink eye. 

Same bird as previous picture. 


Here are my beautiful babies as I filled the pools the other day. 
Remember that I lost one about ten days ago, disappeared without a trace. 

Last night, I lost a second.  
I still think it's an owl, because I don't see how a raccoon could 
carry a 3/4 grown duck OVER the six foot fence without it losing a feather. 

I found nothing. 

I have felt awful all day, it was the female Cayuga I had raised from 
a day old duckling. 

So, they are four. 

I had a camera in the hen yard, and FORGOT TO TURN IT ON.

The grass has pretty much stopped growing, and I am going to try to 
catch the owner of the sheep to see what he intends to do.... I have them 
grazing in the yard at the moment, at risk to my gardens. 

Hay will be expensive this year, we have had so little rain. 

I want to talk for a moment about something serious, because I usually 
don't address anything seriously on the blog. 

It sucks being widowed.  In some ways, it's better, because it 
was horrible seeing Keith fading, and knowing there was no way to stop it. 

But, if I am tired, I still have to take the trash out to the road. 
If something needs fixing, I have to fix it or find someone to do so. 
Those someones are NEVER dependable... I found someone recently to 
do some things here and well paid the person... and have never seen or 
heard from him again.  This is typical, I'm sorry to say. 

I am not complaining, this is life.  It's just that sometimes, I want to 
go out to the pasture and scream for a while. 


Some things still bring a smile.  Granddaughter Paiton is loving her riding lessons, 
and we look forward to them every Monday. 

The outside of a horse IS good for the inside of a little girl, still, 
in this day and age. 









Sunday, July 8, 2018

On the Defensive

On July 4th, one of my beautiful little ducks came up missing. 


It happened to be the "pied" one on the far side of the fortex.  

Gone, without a trace.  

The day before, Biddy, my mama hen, was killed, 
likely by a raccoon.  She had spent only one night in the safety of the pen... in the doghouse there. 
Then she took her two little babies back under the little henhouse, where she had hatched them. 

I was able to rescue both babies, and they are safely in one of the brooder cages.  






I did find her head and neck, so probably a raccoon who went under the 
henhouse to get her. 

So.... 

I have been especially vigilant.  

Before any of you say anything, 
I spent 600.00 having my feral cat food feeder made for the pasture. 

I know that most of the cats are eating there... but... I also knew
that Harley, who was one of the original four kittens... was still 
looking for food at the old hen house. 

I have been leaving a bowl of food out for her. 

It was still drawing raccoons, and I had begun leaving some 
food out during the day time, because I saw her and Spooky several times 
in the day. 

I have been getting increasingly worried about the raccoons, and 
two nights ago, noticed one big male, another adult, and a mama and 
two babies out there, fighting. 

I went out (after scaring them) and took the bowl up. 

Please note that there are no correct dates/times on my cameras, 
I just cannot get them set, it is very frustrating, because I have had 
cameras for a long, long time.  The Bushnell and the Campark have me 
beat, I hate the Bushnell. 

I did buy an older Moultrie yesterday, I'll get it set tonight. 


This was my face this morning when I opened the gate of the 
pen. (and yes, I know my hair looks dorky) 

I had set one of the cameras on the porch of the hen house (side porch) facing the 
gate.  If you look closely... I had gone to the trouble of zip tying a third barrier 
on that gate, and had to cut the zips to get in. 

I was blocking the only gap, where the gate was.  I could have saved myself the trouble. 

The camera on the side porch was down. 
Every night, I put two heavy pavers up against the pophole door of the 
hen house.  One of those heavy pavers was down. 

I was pretty dismayed. 

You see, the night before, the camera showed me a raccoon in the pen, 
along with two cats, one of which I did not recognize. 

What the HECK. 

I had to think back to when Keith was alive... 
we did not have a serious raccoon problem, because Lilly was still 
in good health, and a possum or raccoon dared not show their heads in the yard. 
We had also had Ranger, our wonderful GSD, who had a loud bark. 

We never lost a duck to a predator, 
either in that yard or in the old hen house yard. 

The fence around that pen is six foot high chain length, and we 
attached poultry wire with zip ties to it, which is still in good shape. 
There was originally a shadecloth cover over the pen, which we ordered online.  The former flock here was kept in, because Lilly was a chicken killer.  She still will take a swipe at chicks now, I have to watch her, but for the most part, she ignores them. 


Imagine what I felt like when I saw THIS PICTURE on the camera. (from last night) 

Oh, yes, friends, they are quite the acrobats. 


In fact, here I am in my nightshirt a few minutes later, 
going out to check on the birds before I went to bed. 
I have a spotlight flashlight, and I was checking the nooks and crannies (I thought). 

I will tell you that the ducks had LITTLE sleep last night. 

Somehow, I set the Bushnell camera to video, 
and I had several hours of duck videos before it 
ran out of space.  I never did see who knocked the paver down. 
However, Spooky and Harley were both in there, and 
were both intent on watching for mice at the door. 
If our decent weather holds tomorrow, I am going to 
clean that hen house out and re-bed it, and I expect there 
will be many mice making their ways outside. 

Once the raccoon climbed down the gate, he stayed out of sight. 
All ducks made it through the night. 




Spooky and Harley were in there for several hours, and I 
would venture to say this must be going on regularly, because the 
ducks were ignoring them for the most part. 

(You can see Harley go after a mouse in this video) 

I never did see the raccoon climb back out, OR who knocked the paver down, 
but I figure now it was one of the cats. 
This also explains why I saw Harley by the front door 
of the hen house last night, (this is the hen spa, and it has a front and a side porch).

I did put some food in a small bowl at the OLD hen house for the cats today. 

I confess I am losing sleep over this whole situation. 

I worry about Morning Chicken, too, in the sheep barn. 
If she comes out too early, she may be raccoon prey. 

A friend asked me if there was a barn I could put the 
ducks in at night.  Tomorrow, I'll post a video of what it's like to herd the ducks in at night.  You will laugh. 
I would have to have a dedicated building for them, and I just don't have that. 

They always have done very well in the elements, 
even in winter.  I used to almost kill myself catching my old ducks and putting them in... these... are getting a warm place 
made with straw bales and plywood for the winter, where they can be snug out of the wind, and they will do fine.  I DO have a duck house in the old hen yard, but it is too large to be moved, it was built specifically for the ducks and geese to go into for shelter, and they did use it to lay eggs.  Mostly, they like to be out. 

The next step is to borrow a live trap from the Ag, and start relocating the raccoons.  I will NOT kill them, I admit it. 

For now, I am not putting any feed out where they can get it. 
CAT feed, I can't help it if they go after spilled chicken feed. 
I am also considering getting a yard dog, but it would have to be a pup that can be trained to leave the chickens and ducks alone, because you know.... 
THEY RULE THE WORLD HERE. 


On the bright side, egg production is picking back up!




Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happiness... and Sadness, Too


I took the above video on the first, and posted it to 
Instagram and Facebook, saying that "It was scenes like 
this that make me happy", Biddy and her contented little family, 
and the other chickens scratching underneath the feeding area. 

Yesterday morning, I came out to find the two tiny babies alone, 
pecking the ground outside the hen yard, which is locked up at night. 
Biddy spent one night in the doghouse in the henyard, and then took the 
babies back to her original hidden nest below the little hen 
house. 

She was gone.  What I feared most was the babies disappearing, 
and was trying to be brave and let nature take it's course, because 
I don't need any more chickens here. 

Instead, good mama Biddy was taken. 

I found only feathers. 

Later in the day, I found this, under the maple tree:


Sorry for the gross picture.  It's Biddy's head and neck. 

I believe it was either a raccoon who went under the little hen house to get her... 
or an owl, who swooped down when she came out early in the morning. 

I have a camera on the hen house now, and will fence around the back and sides so 
that no one else is encouraged to lay or even go under there. 

I caught one chick early, and the other got away.  Some of you will understand what 
that did to me... we were in the upper nineties, again, and over 100 heat index.  I worried myself sick 
all day, and assumed the other chick would die and I would have ONE tiny chick in a brooder alone. 

Last night, the chick followed a hen out of the hen yard, and I was able to come up behind it and net it. 

They are both safe in the brooder now, but every time I open the door for food and 
water, one flies out, so.... I have to shut the pophole, and both doors, to be safe. 
I have a large enough water fount that I should only have to do it morning and 
evening. 


Here is a look at the Gold Comets and some of the Black Stars.  They are doing VERY well in the little hen house. 

This morning, little cockerel Singleton crowed for the first time, and I am going to try to 
get a short video of it today.  You will laugh. 


The two Cochin pullets have feathered out nicely. 



Granddaughter Paiton took her lesson horse, Ice, 
clear around the arena this week in her lesson.   She is learning to 
master posting, and two of the young girls helping at the barn this summer took her 
under their wings, and spent time teaching her how to untack and brush down her 
horse, and to clean and re-hang the tack in the tack room.  It was better for them 
to show her, hands on, than the coach just talking through everything while she did it. 

Paiton is very calm around the horses.  

Grandma loves watching her. 


This has been Jester, these last few days.  It is just so 
stinking hot out, and smush-faced dogs do not belong out in it. 

Once in a while, they HAVE to get out. 


Lilly laid on the deck for a while in the heat of the day, yesterday. 
I don't let her stay out but for a few minutes, either. 


Not sure what these are, I got them for a dollar, but the 
variety is Indian Summer.  Going to look them up, as I love them. 
The picture does not do them justice.  

I have more straw being delivered on Friday, and am going to put some more 
on the garden beds. 


This lamb was one of the last two to come here, about 8 weeks ago, She and her partner 
are still scared to death of me, though they come a little closer every day. 
She's a pretty little thing. 

The stuff on her nose is loose minerals, I bought a bag for them this week, and they have all 
been licking them. 


I went out to do morning chores and found destruction on the deck. 
DARN chickens!  They did it quietly, too, after I had watered yesterday. 

I had to run to Walmart for something this morning and got some 
six packs on sale for a dollar, so will replant them after I dry out. 

Yes, it's that hot. 


The buns around here eat as well as the rest of us. 
They can be found at the foot of the maple (where I leave seed for them and the squirrels) 
and at the foot of the bird feeding station, morning and evening.  I have never seen so many as this year... but I credit that to the fact Lilly can no longer chase them. 


Everyone, friend and furriends, have a happy and safe Fourth of July!











Thursday, June 28, 2018

This is Reality

Okay, folks. 

This. Is. Reality. 

It's hotter than two weeks ago. 

Lawrence, 15 miles from me, was 100 today. 
They are talking heat indices of 115 for tomorrow. 


That's what the smaller of the two pools looked like at 3. 
I had gone out at 1:30 and put some cool water into each. 

Notice that the henyard has pretty much dried up in the sun. 


All but one duck-dabbled hole had dried up.  It was stagnant scum. 


The ducks can hear as I start to fill the pools, they like fresh water. 
The teenagers were so excited they started jumping in with only two inches in the pool. 

The big white bullies came running from the yard. 


And ran the little ones out of the big pool. 

I have decided now that there really ARE four drakes. 

They are without a doubt the largest Pekins I have ever had. 
EVER. 


These little ones are so delighted with the water. 


I bucketed that whole pink pool onto garden beds. 
I am determined to keep all my new perennials alive. 




And this is how I looked when I finished and sat down to wait for the pool to fill. 

I had sweat rolling off of every bit of me. 

What I do is go out and work for 20 minutes or so in the heat, 
then go back in and cool down inside.  The dogs are literally out 
for only five minutes at a time. 





Smush-faced dogs need to stay in and suck on their teddies. 


I put a frozen bottle in an open water fortex in the little hen house, because the 
water literally was getting hot in their water fountain. 

They were perplexed at first, that's Singleton looking at it. 


He has turned into a beautiful cockerel.  He is now starting to get some brown 
shading on the tips of his feathers.  He was Biddy's first hatch this year. 
(and the little two better be the last!) 

It didn't take them long to realize the water was COLD, and they started 
drinking it.  I'll bring that container in tonight and re-freeze it, 
and will go buy a couple more tomorrow. 


Yesterday was our annual meeting at The National Agricultural Center, and 
I led a tour before the reception. 
I posed with part of the Oz Exhibit... we are participating in 
a presentation of The Wizard of Oz to be presented August 1 to 5, at 
Providence Medical Center Ampitheater (right down the street from us) by Theater League. 
We are going to turn the grounds into Auntie Em's house and farm, and characters will 
be roaming around.  

It should be great fun for families IF we don't have this terrible heat by then. 

Tomorrow morning, Lauren, our intern, and I are leading a tour for a day care 
group.  I am praying it isn't horrible at 10 AM, because I think those poor kids 
are going to get a shortened tour so they don't bake in the sun. 

Everyone hydrate and stay healthy! 










Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Break from the Steambath

And boy, did we ever need a break from the steambath!


The girls were hiding anywhere they could hide to get out of the sun. 


Asclepias Incarnata began to bloom, and was covered with 
flying insects and several different kinds of bumblebees. 


This is how dry we have been.  Horrid. 


Jester found the only sun puddle to sit in one day. 


This little girl was trapped one morning in the sheep pen, she could not get through the livestock fence.  She had to have come in under the gate.... but I picked her up and pointed her downhill towards the ponds. 


Granddog Shiner had to go to the vet because he 
pulled a nail out.  Ouch.  He is on pain pills for a while, plus 
antibiotics. 


As I posted on Instagram, my ducks were in a row for about two minutes, 
and yes, we had storms that day.  See the sky? 

These are the hugest Pekins I have ever had, but sadly, all are drakes. 
They sass me constantly. 


This is raccoon poop in the unused little wood henhouse at The National Agricultural Center. I discovered it on Tuesday, and prayed it was from the period when there were no birds there. 

I was wrong. 

We lost two of the new birds, gruesomely. 


ARGGGHHHH. 

The crazy thing is, for two years, we had sizeable flocks there with no losses. 

You see, the coop there has a pophole, but no door on it, because there is no one there in the evening to lock the birds up.  Hardware cloth surrounds the bottom of the coop, and is buried.  Poultry wire covers the top.  The first flock this year began to be decimated, the raccoons were coming down through the top.  That was sealed. 

These, this week, went through the side.  

I can see where they have been climbing the sides of the coop, which sits inside a utility barn. 
For now, our summer intern is closing when she goes home at 4, on four days a week.  I am 
going the other three days, which makes two trips a day for me while I try to think what is best to do. 

Today, Sunday, as I write this, we are expecting severe storms in the late afternoon.  I 
took care of the birds this morning and then left them locked in so I don't have to drive through 
bad weather to lock them up.  Hate to do it to them, leaving them locked in all day. 

The pen has been repaired, but I could see where the raccoons tried to get through again, and, as one of the male volunteers said "Once they have broken through, they will keep trying."  He is right. 

Someone suggested a solar door to me, but... if a hen fails to go in, she is dead. 


I have gone from getting 20 eggs a day to only 8 or 9.  Very frustrating. 

I marked it down to the heat, but I think I know what has been happening. 



Biddy appeared out of nowhere on Thursday, after I thought she was long dead. 
She had two new chicks in tow. 

Wherever she has been hiding, I fear I will find fifty eggs in the nest.  So far, I have not found them! 

I have decided to let her raise those two herself, and we will just let Nature take its' course. 


My innocent Lilly grabbed one of those chicks in her mouth and hobbled off with it, 
I had to chase her.  I don't think she is quite ready to cross the Bridge yet. 


Try as I might, I just can't get good pictures of the hummers on my porch.  I was able to get 
better pictures at the big house, through the patio doors.  


Found this big black rat snake skin on my mulch pile on Friday. 


And this juvenile rat snake was in the coop at the Ag Saturday. 
Our intern freaked out. 

The little stinker struck at me, too. 
(non-venomous). 


I have no clue what Ferdy was doing yesterday, 
but he made a pretty picture.  He is such a gentle rooster... to me. 


Fat little Brownie, grazing in the yard yesterday. 


I have a huge volunteer pumpkin growing just off the mulch pile. 

I swear it doubled in size since I took this yesterday. 




As I was leaving the Ag this morning, I saw the baby rat snake's big brother. 

After storms today and tomorrow, we are to be back in the steam bath for the next ten days or so, 
and I'll be back to constant watering.  I will try to post as I can.