Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Pony on the Porch

Sunday morning, we opened the door to find the above scene! Not fifteen minutes after we took the picture, Beau lead Lilly Horse up onto the porch and deck. They walked around (while Keith held his breath) and surveyed the deck, and then one went down the precarious snow-covered wooden south stairs, while Lilly came down the stone steps from the old porch. Whew! We are not encouraging this behavior, and we long knew that Beau wanted to join us on the deck, as he had joined us in the yard all summer. He doesn't enjoy being handled much anymore, but he loves to be near his people when he wants to.

The above has not happened again, but we have blocked the south steps so they can't get up there. The deck is still covered with drifted snow, and there are a few planting pots left on it, so the horse and pony will be staying in the yard. They are bored, like little children, and the addition of two more inches of snow last night did not help matters. They are sleeping in their cozy little garage stall, though, and we have found them laying comfortably in the deepened straw.

Lllama Kisses

Okay, they're not cuddly like the pugs, but all of the llamas have gotten used to us, and now approach quite readily. Tony is very friendly and curious, and has started reaching his nose and nibbling at my lips very daintily. Then he pulls his head back, looks at me as if he can't believe he did it, and turns away. Both Yankee and Inca are doing the same, and Mama, once so aloof, now does the Happy Camel Dance when we come with the bucket of goodies. The snow is not fazing them... with plenty of good hay and cover in their little barn, they are doing fine.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day, 2009

Snow Llamas

The one animal that truly seemed to come through the Christmas Eve blizzard with no problems were the llamas. Bred for the mountains, they slept together in the three sided barn, and came through ice-covered, but seemingly okay. Plenty of hay kept them going, and they tucked in as if there were no snow and ice around them. We made sure that the heated trough was full and we saw them drink during the day, so know they are okay. They didn't go far from the barn and barnyard, they are smart animals.

Blizzard Horses

With ice hanging off their coats.... though we made them a place to get in out of the storm in the old garage, and they used it. Beau's old stall at the front of the big chicken house filled with snow in the wild winds.

Your blogger, in her Christmas Attire!

Getting ready to carry water buckets outside... was it only yesterday morning we were able to use the hose??

A Cold Country Christmas

December 25th, birth of our Saviour, and usually started with a trip to church and a big breakfast. This year, we had a blizzard strike on Christmas Eve. Nathan, middle grandson, could not come to join us for the evening and night.... and it took all we had to keep the animals alive and well. In the morning, we could not get up the drive. We used all but one bale of hay that we had laid in this week, so tomorrow morning, instead of after Christmas sales, we'll get up and go in search of hay and straw in the van with no heater.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Link is Broken

Two weeks ago, I took this picture of a happy Nicholas, sitting in the porch of the big chickenhouse where he loved to look for mice. He would follow me on my chores as he followed us while we walked Oscar the Min Pin in Leavenworth when we first moved back, when he would follow us down the alley and out onto Esplanade, running behind us on the curb and laying down under the park bench when we sat to watch the river. When we stood up to go home, up would come Nick, and follow us back. When we moved to this farm, it was like he remembered the old farm, where he had grown up with me, and he couldn't wait to investigate all the buildings and the pasture and grounds. Yes, he did kill some wild birds, but he was an indoor outdoor cat out here in the country. Twice we thought we had lost him, but we know now that Oscar was keeping him away from the house. After Oscar was gone, Nick felt safe to approach us again, and I was so glad to find him again. I had heard him night after night, calling to me, until I thought maybe I was losing it, but he WAS out there.

On the first he did not come to me when I called him from the porch, and Keith found him curled in a deck chair, and carried him in. Two days at Dr. Tom's that week found only that he had a virus, and he was sent home with medication. He lost weight and stopped eating, and finally, drinking. The last night he dragged himself up between us, and gave two short yowls... when I turned the light on, I thought he was gone. I stroked him and talked to him, and cried. Then, at five, he dragged himself off the bed. I left work that morning and came home to take him back to Dr. Tom, where I held him until he went to sleep peacefully.
He was the last of my beloved pets from my "old" pre-married life, at my old farm. They are all gone now, Petey, Ashley, Libby, Stealth, the Elmos, Nicholas the Third and now Nicholas the Fourth. All the chickens and ducks that lived happily there, and the gardens and lovely rolling meadow in the pasture. He is buried here under Beau's tree in the pasture, in a little red box, and the coyotes won't be able to find him. He can look down on the beautiful ponds at the foot of the pasture, and in the summer the mulberry tree will shade him. We are going to plant wildflowers on his resting place, but his real resting place is in my heart.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Peaceable Kingdom

Our friends marvel when we tell them that we have ten roosters and thirty hens. No, we aren't rolling in eggs... it's winter, and the girls aren't laying as much. Some of the older girls are past their laying prime, but no one dies at Calamity Acres unless by natural causes (or mercifully, if the case may be). For the first five years, Rambo was the King of the roosters. If he saw a younger rooster bothering one of his harem, he would barrel across the yard or pasture, and hip-check the other rooster like a hockey player! Then, this year, Rambo sickened and died of old age. But in a cage in the henhouse was his last son, Baby Rambo, who has grown to be a beautiful rooster like his dad. Not full Buff Orpington, but bearing the stamp of his daddy, he is the New King. He has a beautiful crow... a true Cockadoodledo, and throw his head back and lets it out.

Last year's hatch brought One, Two , Three and Four, who are clearly descendents of the handsome Fred, our Japanese rooster, killed in the dog attack last year. Three year olds are Studly and Butch, also Fred descendents. This year we had Curley, who at one year was kept busy delighting the smaller ladies, until killed by a snake in August. He has left several descendents, however, including a very frizzled cochin-silkie cross rooster, and two others. All get along fine, with minimal sparring. Our theory is that the size of the pasture dictates the peace of the kingdom.

The New Pasture Pen

For winter protection... more pictures to follow of the tarp, straw bales, etc. to protect the geese and ducks. As soon as we had it up, an inspection was made!

Uncle Beau, December, 2009

A Cold December Day

Cold too soon, here at Calamity Acres. Two winter storms on the way, and a weekend spent trying to batten down the hatches and still prepare for Christmas. Lots of projects are in progress... a temporary shelter put up so the ducks and geese can get out from under any precip, and heating lamps on in the big and little henhouses. The haybarn is finished, primed, but not finished painting, and the closeness to the gate of the pasture has been a Godsend, taking only minutes to feed the llamas and equines now. We have a new storage building, so that the shop can be cleaned out and prepared for a big project for the spring. The big henhouse has more room, now that we are using the haybarn for storage of all the hay/horse feed and llama feed.
We have one more small project, to put straw bales around the little dog pen in the chicken yard with the tarp cover... this will give the little birds a place to shelter out of the windy, cold days of winter.

Inside, things are not so well... Nicholas, the Link, the 9 year cat who lived originally at my old far, has been sick since last Tuesday. Despite two days at the vet's office, they could not figure out what was wrong. He is dehydrated, and on antibiotics. He has spent the weekend sleeping, and is hiding now. We are praying he is not dying, but it does not look good. He does not seem to be in terrible pain, just fading.

Ouside, we have a chicken who is showing signs of trouble as well. Brownie, one of old Rambo's daughters, has a crippled leg, and has lived for two years balancing her self on one good leg, and one stuck awry. Something else has happened now, and she is having trouble. We debated all weekend to end things for her, and are waiting until morning. Today I saw her drink water and try to eat a little, so we decided to wait, but tomorrow, Husband leaves for a three day meeting so the decision will be made to end things, or to let nature take her course. This is the unpleasant side of country living... sometimes animals sicken and die, and you don't always know what has happened. She does not appear to be eggbound, and there are no sniffles... we have been through that before. She has been a very plucky girl, and would have been put down months ago by a normal chicken raiser, but we are not normal here... everyone has a chance, until they don't anymore.

Christmas preparations are under way, though the tree is not in and up. Sometimes there are more things to be done in a day than there are hours, so it will have to wait until next weekend now. Someday, when I'm retired, I'll have my ducks in a row!

Both vet and farrier have come in the last week. Lilly Horse is overweight, and now dieting, but in good health. Farrier has pronounced both horses in good shape after trimming, and was astounded at the weight Uncle Beau has put on since the arrival of his companion. The llamas are fat and sassy and enjoying the winter weather better than all of us!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Llamas at Dawn

Frost on their backs at feeding time... it's cold here in Kansas in November already... what does this mean for the winter?

A Rather Rotund Mini

Lilly, helping herself to a pile of hay in the yard. They've been in it two days, and seem to have no intention of going back to the pasture!

Daddy's Chair

And look who is in it while Daddy's out of town!

A Put Out Llama

Sunday night, I put the horses in the yard for the first time in two months. The llamas lined up at the fence, mad because they couldn't come in too. If we could herd them, we would let them... but believe me, horses are more biddable! Llamas will attack dogs, and we would not risk our yard and house babies to their wrath! Inca let me know her displeasure at not being able to join her horse buddies!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, My Dear Little Boy

39 years old today, the little boy that was the light of my life is a grown man with prematurely gray hair. A hard worker, he has never married and lives a life of solitude with a small group of friends and minds his own business. Independent from an early age, he never lost his house keys and rarely needed help. His grandma had to beg him to get his "little men" off the floor so she could he loved Star Wars and all his little "people", playing for hours quietly. Even today they continue to fascinate him. He drank coffee at the kitchen table with his grandma while still in grade school, and graduated from high school and made his mother proud. Though he didn't finish college, he has worked hard, paid his taxes and taken care of himself for 20 years, and you just can't ask much more than that. I miss him but know he is self-sufficient and a real man.

Happy birthday, Jeff... I hope you read this today!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The New Hayshed

Over the past six weeks, a new hayshed has taken form just outside the horsepen at Calamity Acres. Almost finished, it will hold ten small bales of hay, and the cans for horse and llama feed. The convenience of just stepping beyond the gate to fill the buckets will be much appreciated, and not having to navigate across a frozen yard will be a blessing in about two months.

Layin' Down to Eat

Inca likes to lay down to eat her treat daily!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Your Blogger is Back

An almost two month hiatus is over and your blogger is back. Things have been hopping around Calamity Acres, and we are preparing for winter, though it's only mid-October. A new hayshed has gone up, and should be finished this weekend, now that the rains have stopped. We will be able to store a dozen square bales just outside the horsepen, along with the metal cans that the feed for horses and llamas is kept in. It will make chores that much easier once the cold hits in earnest. These last two weeks have been cold in the morning, and now we are wearing jeans and long sweats, as well as gloves when we go out to do chores. It's pitch black in the morning, and I have taken to wearing a "miner's light" on a band around my head so that I can see what I'm doing. It's still so dark outside, the hens do not want to leave the shelter of the big henhouse for the dark henyard, so I let everyone go just as I am leaving for work. Tomorrow after church, we'll start putting plastic up on the henhouse windows, both large and small, and check the electric cords we run the water tank heaters off.

Our "borrowed" mini horse, Lilly, called Oreo now, appears to be pregnant. What we thought was a grass belly appears to be moving, so we let our friends know that they have a possible foal on the way. We like her a lot, and so does gentle Uncle Beau, who stays with her always. He has spring in his step now, and the other night we went to groom him and it took both Husband and me to catch him! We had a good laugh, cut the burrs out of his long mane, and wormed him. We'll worm little Oreo today. She is out there now, laying down after breakfast in the muddy pen, but we are waiting for Beau to eat his grain with his almost toothless mouth before turning them out in the pasture.

The pond is holding water now, and the algae of summer is gone, so the ducks are loving this time of year. We had a pond man come to look at, and are aiming for a pond three times as large in the spring. We know we may lose a few frogs, but we hope to gain many more, and be able to stock the new pond with fish so that family members can come and fish it. Our dreams and wishes about Calamity Acres are slowly coming true.

The geese and ducks are wandering around the top of the pasture, and next Saturday they will get a new shelter for winter built of straw bales and a roof, and be able to get themselves out of the cold winds. Little seems to bother them though, and they hunker down with their heads under their wings and sleep on, impervious to the rains.
Fall brighten the view now, and the bed of mums is sprawling with it's autumnal color, it's a pleasure to go out and sit on the deck. Soon our neighbors will finish fencing the five acres to our north, and we will have cattle as our closest neighbors over the fence, which suits us fine!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Spiderwebs and Fog

Labor Day dawned somewhere, but here in the Midwest, outside the little town of Tonganoxie, it was all fog and dripping. Spiderwebs hung damp in the fog, gracing porch and gate and plants. The full moon shown weakly through the fog as it went down in the west, and the sun surely was rising in the east.

If the pool is open today, it surely will be the last time anyone takes a dip this summer, and the unofficial close of summer is a wet one.

Having cut the entire 2 acre yard in one fell swoop yesterday (rarely done!) I was able to sleep a little later this morning, and enjoy it. Yesterday's dawn brought the loss of little Curley, the frizzle cochin rooster. Only two pounds dripping wet, Curley was a featherless wonder who ran like Speedy Gonzalez from horsepen to hen corral at the speed of light. He jumped the hens, no matter how large, and flapped his miniscule wings at his mighty crow. He brought a grin to my face daily with his antics, and even though he has been featherless for months over half his body, he was amazing in his spunk and ability to fight off the marginally-larger roosters. Sometime in the night Saturday night, a snake got him. It was only able to suffocate him, not swallow him, and so backed off as it did the beautiful brown pullet earlier this summer, leaving him dead. I almost wouldn't mind if the snake had a meal, but to lose a fine little rooster for nothing was a blow. Snakes 3, farmer 0 for the summer.

Curley had taken to sleeping on the floor of the henhouse, and I had feared that very thing happening. Last night, the crippled hen Brownie slept on the floor in the closet, instead of flying up to the hanging nest boxes. If this presages her demise, I would not be surprised. She will be easy prey for suffocation by Mr. T if she stays on the floor, despite her big size. She is one of the few Rambo daughters I have left.

Baby Rambo has shaped up to be a nice cockerel, but I have yet to year him make a sound in crowing. Normally cockerels start at about 4 months, but he, at 8, has yet to throw back his head and sing. Even Cocky, the silkie cross cockerel is crowing a reedy crow now. They are contemporaries, as are One, Two, Three and Four, and 2 year olds Studly and Butch. Butch has taken over the big hens now that Rambo has gone.

While mowing, I found part of the gray pullet lost ten days ago to Lilly; She had to have been snatched through the fence or flown over.

Saturday spent at a craft fair, Sunday spent at church and mowing... today will be a rest day for your farmer. Safe holiday to all!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Birthday Girl

This week brought another birthday, my first without my dear Mother. Despite the innate sadness of the day, Husband treated me to a wonderful time. We took the day off work, and drove to Abilene, Kansas, where we toured the Eisenhower Museum site. We ate lunch in a wonderful restaurant with delicious food based in a restored Victorian, the Kirby House... and also toured another over-the-top restored Victorian, the Laclede Mansion, which sadly has been sold and will become a private home again. I say sadly for those of us who admire sturdy old Victorians, but not for it's new owners, who will be living in a true gem.

My love of history made the trip a memorable one, as we slowly moved through Ike's museum and his family home. We marveled at how the strapping Eisenhower boys were able to cram into the small home, and the fact that his mother lived there until 1948. It is a beautiful, well-kept site, and also features his presidential library. We also find it shocking that so many of our contemporaries do not know anything about Ike as a general or president, and were truly amazed by that. I guess our love of history has opened us to more than just day-to-day facts.

Coming home to do chores that evening after a second pleasant drive through the Flint Hills, we found our new equine had been delivered. Described as "a small pony", she appears to be a large mini horse. Beau, the Old Gentleman, was staring lovingly at her over the fence. When I let him in, they hauled off and kicked out at each other, and then settled into amicable companionship. She is a second Lily, as she has been called that by her owners, and is loaned to us to keep Beau company. We have found her to be sweet and compliant, as the wild Lacey was not, and follows us around like a puppy. In fact, I thought she was coming right up on the porch several times!

They are out there now in the sun, lazing together, both members of the Long Mane Club!
We are down two chickens this week... the pullet who was raised by Dovey fell prey to Lilly Ann on Friday, we came home from work to find a pile of gray feathers in the yard. Either snatched through the fence or flown over, she was easy work for the hunter. And Husband had to put a cockerel out of his misery, something scared them into piling, and when the pile unfolded, one cockerel could not walk. We put him in the nursing cage for the day, but realized that night that a leg had been disconnected or broken. Husband put him down, so our numbers are reduced to 42. The other 13 silkie/cochin crosses are all healthy and well. As the younger ones get older, I am thinking of re-homing them with someone who likes little birds the way I do.
Mr. T., our resident black snake, has been hiding in these cold, chilly last days of August. Twice this week I found him curled up behind the feed cans, but now he has disappeared again. I think the early chill is driving him and his brothers underground earlier than normal, as long as they don't take any young chicks with them!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dragonfly Dance

This is the time of the Dragonfly Dance. The time when the cicadas sing at sunset, as the suns rays fall below the western horizon, when the grasshoppers flap their wings in the warm sun, and the chickens begin to come in at 6, knowing the days are growing shorter and looking for their roosts to settle for the night. It's the time when grasscutting goes from being a pleasure to being a chore, and the constant trought filling and pool watering is a pain. As I mow, the dragonflies flit in the air before me, drawing close to the mower and my arms, and then buzzing away at speed, dancing and zooming, off into the pasture and back again. The walnut trees are dropping their leaves, first to fall and last to come out in the spring, their lives short each year... and their bounty littering the yard so that the mower zings the walnuts as I drive over them. Weeds grow tall, and the tomato plants begin to wither and lean, while peppers are still pumping out. The llamas, fat and happy, stand in the shade of their mulberry tree, or graze in the late afternoon shade, growing strong and healthy. Even Uncle Beau has gained a little weight, and moseys around in the yard, unaware that he will have a new companion to bring a spring to his step in a few days.

For us, it's autumn too, a couple of momentous birthdays and another chapter growing closer in our lives. It's the Dragonfly Dance.

The Wolf at the Gate

Lilly Ann, Waiting for a Ripe One

The Little Chickenhouse

The little chickenhouse was a gift from my husband to me, several years ago. An "overflow" space, we envisioned it as a home to the chickens bred here. Actually, it has served to isolate new chickens, and get them used to their new home, and for hens who have gone broody to raise their young in safe place, snake free and cozy. This year it was the first home for the four little red hens, the three Old English Gamebirds, and the three silkie sisters bought in the spring. Once they had all graduated to the Big Henhouse, the little henhouse was the place two of the silkie sisters decided to share brooding duties on a pile of eggs. They duly hatched five of their ten, and raised those five in the safety of the little house on stilts. From within, the babies heard the sounds of the other chickens, the ducks and the geese and they went to and fro underneath, eating from the big fortex and carrying out their chicken dramas. Just as I decided to let the five babies and their mamas out into the world, the mamas went back on the nest and eventually hatched seven more babies. It was clear (from the shape of the chicks) that One, Two, Three and Four had fathered some of the babies, but it was also clear that Curley the Featherless Wonder (the frizzle Cochin) had fathered part of Batch Two, as three chicks have excessively curled (frizzled) feathers. Now, after months of feeding in three different locations, I have plunged forward and let the little chicks out into the world. After netting three of them for several nights, I realized it was time to let nature take it's course, and lo and behold, they figured out how to run back up the ramp and into the little house at night! Now I'm thinking of re-homing the whole bunch, before the girls go broody again.

The little chickenhouse, besides providing shade for the birds during the hot summer months, was not constructed with a lot of forethought and we would make modifications to it if we were to build another like it. The rear doors serve to clean it out and place feeders and waterers, but the gleanings swept out onto the ground have made a soupy nasty stinking mess behind it, and today we are weed-eating and cutting down vegetation so that the sun can get to it and dry it out. It's NOT a fun place for chores!

One rooster of the first hatch is, of course, a beauty, but as we have Studly, Butch, One, Two Three and Four, and Baby Rambo, along with Curley, it's time to stop. Rooster and all must be given over to some new owner who hopefully will be as delighted with silkie/cochin crosses as I am.

End of summer means changes in the way we are doing chores around here. After lugging the water hose all summer, I have decided that the new pond needs to be a priority next year. A new pond means that the plastic swimming pools and big trough will not need to be kept up for the ducks and geese, who do not like to swim in the red algae hole that our pond has become. Luckily, husband has bought into this, and we have begun to search for a responsible person who can dig us a pond at a reasonable cost. I'll be glad to see the end of the plastic swimming pools. They are hard to keep clean and a pain to fill daily.

Tuesday will bring the delivery of the new pony companion for Beau, the Old Gentleman. We have argued with ourselves for weeks, as Beau's appearance has waxed and waned. We know he is lonely, and this pony mare may only be a companion for a few short months, but we hate to see him lonely. We won't be here to see his joy in his new companion, our friends will drop him off while we are in Abilene for the day at the Eisenhower Museum and Lebold Mansion, on a summer "staycation" daytrip. Next morning doing chores should bring his delight in his new "girl", who is currently called Lilly, but may have a name change since we have one of those bright flowers in our family already.

Speaking of Lilly, we have a chicken missing all the feathers on her derriere at the moment, and bird dog who is sitting very close to the fence constantly, nose to the wire. Hmmmm.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Yankee, Two Weeks Old

Tonight, Yankee and her big brother Tony ran up and down the barn pad out in the pasture, leaping like gazelles as they played Tag and Follow the Leader. Tony, who can run as fast as the fleetest deer, slowed down to chase his little sister, but ran at top speed when she chased him! Her legs are growing strong and capable, as she nurses from Mama and plays with Tony. She's a delight to watch, and we spent many happy minutes on the deck, watching them run up and down.

A New Deck

For a month now, Keith has been working on the new deck. From modest beginnings on a piece of paper, it has become a 16x26 foot outdoor room. Today, the steps down to the yard will be poured and made... and then the rest of the railing put up this week. It is already in use by us, the dogs and the cats, who have welcomed it's position, half in sun and half in the shade of the big maple tree.

It will be such an enchancement to Calamity Acres!