Saturday, February 28, 2009

The View From Today

UGH! That is about all I can say this morning, as winter is back with a vengeance. If you don't like the weather in Kansas, wait a day.... which is what we always say around here. Yesterday, 67 degrees, and this morning, 20 with four inches of snow in the yard, making chores a pain in the neck. At least you can walk in it, unlike ice. I swore to myself I would stay in a little longer (and I did) but at seven went out and carried water to the geese and ducks, fed the horses, and made sure the chickens had plenty of water and feed since I knew they would not be coming out despite their open door. I was right, they had enough sense to take one good look and stay IN!

Beau is wandering out of the gate and back in, at a loss of what to do this morning when he can't reach the grass again. He has had his first bite, but Lacey the mini turned away from the food, and is standing in misery again out in the snow, her Cushing's clad back covered with it. We had the vet again yesterday, and the Cushing's is making her hooves grow abnormally fast, so despite being trimmed six weeks ago, she needs another right away. We are trying to reach our farrier Jerad, who is so gentle with her. We will now be giving her 3 meds a day to try to halt the course of the Cushings and make her more comfortable. And yes, we may have to make a decision about her soon, but not now. She has become a gentle little thing now that she cannot get away from us, and we have removed her halter since we can walk right up to her. Those who knew the Lacey of old would never believe it!

The starlings are lined up on the edge of the heated water tank to drink and stay warm by the scores. We dislike starlings for one reason... they invaded the henhouse two winters in a row wreaking horrible havoc on everything. There is no poop like starling poop! This year, perhaps because we did not put a red heatlamp in the overhead, we were not invaded, except for a few during the day here and there. They flutter back and forth, diving near our heads in panic, and it is not fun to go in there when there are several in there. It used to be fifty or more, and the devastation is still there to see in the form of stained walls. Out by the bird feeder there are scores more birds, all trying to find some seeds to eat. I swept the ground by it and put out a lot of seed this morning, and all the while, a woodpecker pecked on the fresh suet I had put out last night after the basketball game.

The snow is beautiful, but today is scrapbooking day, and I will have to load the car and get to Lawrence in four inches of it, so it will be a pain. I hope it is the last of the season, because spring is officially 3 weeks away. I do remember one year, though, at the Old Place, when we had a snowstorm on March 22nd that sealed my drive between the two banks off, and I spent the day shoveling instead of going to work. High above me that day I heard a sound faint in the wind. I looked up, and overhead, high above, were thousands upon thousands of geese flying north. I have never seen that many again together, so I figure it was God's gift to me for shoveling. I will always treasure it.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Black Sheep

All her life, your blogger has felt like the Black Sheep of her family. No one else loved animals the way I did, and wanted to bring home everything that barked, mewed, grunted, squawked, etc.. Like every other kid in the 50's, one Easter we were given baby chicks, and they lived in a little place my dad set up for them in the basement. I went down to sit with them every day, talking to them and watching them, and within me was born a love of poultry that lasts to this day. I have often said that I would like nothing more from retirement than to sit and watch my chickens, and see what beautiful combinations we come up with through breeding. Finally, our Easter chicks grew large enough that they started taking off and landing on my mother as she did the wash, and at that point, I knew they were history. Indeed, my dad gave them to someone at his job, who probably ate them, but I was never told that. I would like to think they were pullets who lived to a ripe old age, laying eggs for their owner every day.

I have been privileged and lucky enough to meet some people along the way who shared my love of animals, and even now, have several friends who "get it" and understand when I am soppy about my pugs, or worried about a bird or the little mare. I was blessed late in life to marry someone who fell into loving our pets (despite the sometimes drudgery) and who enjoys being around and with them. I think we are the better for our love of animals, I know we treat people better for it. Sometimes when I am adding up those feed store charges or the bills from the vet I wonder at my sanity, but while we can afford it, we will take good care of our charges. Tomorrow the vet comes yet again to check the little mare Lacey, as we are now hearing an ominous click from her left hind hoof, and she cannot bear to have it handled, though it is not hot. We are worried something terrible has happened, and though the ground has been softer this week, tonight it is freezing again, and we know she will be on eggshells in the morning. We buted her in anticipation.

Lilly the Mole Killer has dug up the yard in her quest to remove the Mole Cong. I will have to go behind her to fill in holes, lest I turn an ankle in one, or worse yet, the horses do. Soon their time of wandering will be over, as the green grass can hurt them, but there are still a few days when they can (or rather, Beau the pony can) come out and eat.

Our bird feeders are being emptied almost daily now, and I must remember to put suet out in the morning. The woodpeckers and other suet-eaters are going at it constantly now that nature's bounty has been used up. At least we have not had to carry as much water this week while we are all getting over the Crud that layed us low.

One more day until the weekend! And two weeks until the big poultry auction, where I hope to find four more hens for my project!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Day of Sickness

More than anything, your blogger does not like feeling sick. For the last month, I have been dragging from home to work and back again, filling my Saturdays with errands, and generally feeling worn out. It started with a cold which spread from me to husband to stepson. Finally, husband went to the doctor for antibiotics, and returned to the Land of the Living, while I dragged on. Today I finally relented and saw the doctor for ten days worth of antibiotics to get over the upper respiratory condition that has bothered me for a month. I spent the afternoon dozing with the pugs, listening to husband hammer on the new porch walls. I got much needed rest, and am looking forward to a good night's sleep.

The temperature was beautiful today, in the fifties, and we can expect more for the next few days. I spent most of the day on the couch or in the recliner, but I could see, when I got up, the hens running back and forth about their work in the pasture. They keep the manure in the horseyard broken into a fine tilth for us, so that we never have to shovel or move it out. Soon that will be a hard job, as we will have to lock up the two oldsters for a while while the grass renews itself. Letting them out an hour a day will be the drill for a while, so that the foundered mare won't hurt herself on the fresh grass. We may not even be able to do that with her, as she can be hard to catch and is now permanently being medicated.

Isis the hen is better, and we turned the light off on her so she would not get too hot today. Keith will turn it back on tonight, to keep her warm, and we will unplug it in the morning. We have noticed before that concentrating a warm light on sick birds often helps them, but this time we also put medicated crumbles in her feed. Today I slipped out there in the evening, to catch her eating out of her bowl, and was overjoyed. We collected 9 beautiful eggs, and left one under Dovey, to give her the pretense of setting. We are now finding duck eggs, huge duck eggs, in the horsebarn daily. We think it must be Maggie, as she is mature. One was so large it would not fit in an egg carton, but had to be put in the meat drawer. We should be able to take a good three dozen eggs to the food bank this week, so we are glad and grateful to our hard-working girls.

Still not feeling tip-top, so will close for the night and go listen to our new President speak to the congress, and to us about what we can expect with our economy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Weekend errands and Isis in Crisis

Another weekend has come and half gone, but your blogger blogs on. It has gotten cold in Kansas again, with temps in the upper teens this morning as I got up before church to do minimal chores. Carrying water to the waterfowl (despite the pond being open) so they could eat their morning grain, letting the birds loose, and feeing the dogs and cats was accomplished before leaving for church. At least we have hazy sun today, despite the cold weather. It is good to sit here in the house and smell fresh-baked peanut butter cookies and look through the window at the hens running back and forth. The Old Gentleman, Beau, has come through into the yard to graze for a while, while Lacey the little horse wanders slowly around. She is getting medication daily, and we notice when the ground gets hard again she has more trouble.

She is not up to coming into the yard to graze with Beau, but stands just outside the horseyard in the pasture, or walks to the henyard and back slowly. She is up, though, which is more than we thought would happen.

We have another patient here, the lovely Wyandotte hen Isis, who has been sick for over a week now. We have her in the isolation cage, with a warm light on her. Husband has felt her for an eggbound egg, but we can't feel anything, though he has had success with moving them in the past. She grows weaker by the day, but we cannot bear to put her down, she has been such a good girl. We were given five Wyandotte hens two years ago by my friends Nancy and Paul, and have gotten many wonderful brown eggs from them. Clea was lost in the dog attack last March, but Isis, Pandora, Sprocket and Lola have formed the core of our Big Bunch, with their daughters Brownie and Birdy, and their two friends Rosy and Ruby, the production reds. We are medicating her, but when a hen won't eat and drink, the end is probably near.

In two weeks is the first poultry auction of the year, held in the sale barn area of a small town near here. I will go that day, and try to find four more hens for our flock, so that we can give eggs to our local feed bank all summer. Any hens who come here are pets, not for eating, but we have always shared their eggs, and want to do so again this summer. We have raised our own replacements for the last few years, but have decided no chicks for this one summer, then maybe we will go back to raising them in the future, once our scholar has gone off to college.

Yesterday on errands I was able to snap two more of the schoolhouses that I see in my travels. One, the White School, dates from 1929. It sits at the edge of a business area in Lawrence, and was for sale recently, though we can't tell if it sold. It was converted to a residence or offices, but does not appear anyone is using it now. The other, the Admire School, is a mile from us, at the southern end of our gravel road. It sits at a crossroads, and is made of native limestone. A young carpenter began restoring it a year or so again, and now appears to have moved in. We love to see it's lights on in the evening now. One of these weeks I'll go to our local historical society and do some research about the little building that dates from the 1880's.

This afternoon will be spent quietly, doing a little laundry and scrapbooking. I'm looking forward to the Oscars this evening, though I will probably get disgusted with the "stars" and turn the channel. It's hard to equate people who live as if there is no tomorrow and what is happening in the "real" world around us now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Like Skimbleshanks, he's the cat who couldn't be ignored

With a nod to e.e. cummings, Nickie is our Skimble. He is definitely the cat we can't ignore!

Nick is the living link to my old farm, the first Calamity Acres, where I lived in bliss with my former pets, dogs, cats, and chickens. This farm went out of my possession, and I married late in life and very unexpectedly, and Nicholas is the link between the two lives.

When I got him, he was a tiny kitten who had been crying under a car for three days. Each day someone told me about him, and on the third day, I asked to get him. He became one of my first pets at the old place. He bonded very well when I got another kitten a few months later, and the two boys grew up side by side. Nick did not like to use the cat box, and always went to the door to go out no matter what the weather outside. Even in the dead of winter, he chose to go outside, and in the morning when I went out to the end of the long drive to get the paper, there would come Nick from a crevice in the bank across the road, ready for breakfast. When I moved into a tiny apartment for a year, I had to make Sophie's Choice, and decide which cat to keep, as I was only allowed one. I chose Nick, and gave my Elmo to a person I didn't know, and have always wondered what has happened to him. Nick went from apartment to Texas when I married, thence to Illinois, and finally back to Kansas. He went through a year in a rental before we bought this sweet place. Then, because of a boisterous dog, he disappeared for three months outside and I thought he was gone, though I kept hearing him in my dreams, and talking to him. I finally asked my husband if he thought I was losing my mind, because I kept hearing my cat.

One day, someone tapped at the window as I sat at the computer, and there was Nick in my husband's arms. I cried out, stunned, and brought him in through the window. It happened a second time, and when we got him back, we kept him in for over a year. Now he is free to go in and out, and loves it. We love to watch him in his beloved outdoors, running around in the pasture, and chasing the red dog across the yard. He often accompanies me on my rounds, and sleeps at my feet in bed. He's the Nickster, the Link.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Weekend of Errands

No blogging this week, while we tried to get over our respective colds. This time they lingered on, making us very tired and making it hard to get up and at it each day. Husband had to drive to the state capitol for meetings daily, and I just had to go to work, but it was hard to be enthusiastic at 4 degrees at 6 in the morning. Even though my health is 100% better than a year ago, it is still hard to spring out of bed with a good attitude daily when I know I am going out in blowing cold mist.

Things are looking up this weekend, though... it is 27 degrees and sunny this morning. It was easy doing chores before church, and I welcomed the quiet time with the inside animals while letting my better half sleep in for his later church service.

Yesterday was spent doing errands. We got up early for Saturday, and after I did the outside chores, we loaded three of the dogs up for a trip to the vet. We continue to take them to a vet where I have gone for 30 years... but it is now 20 miles from where we live. The pugs went into their carriers, and Lilly Ann onto her leash. As we do not load the dogs up and take them places, Lilly gets apprehensive when this happens. As we took them out to load them in the van, Ranger jumped into the back seat and politely ignored our exhortations to come out and stay home. Finally, we laughed and shrugged and let him come, too, though he had gotten all his shots and his license two weeks ago. The trip down was fraught with nerves, the pugs in their crates making little mewing noises, and Lilly jumping two seats to sit with her 50 pounds on my lap. Of course, Ranger was upset then that he was way in the back, but managed to keep himself back there. When we got to the vet, we unloaded the pugs and Lilly and took them in. Ranger came in for a few minutes, but there were many people waiting in the walk-in clinic, and back he went to walk around in the sun outside and then get back in the van to wait. The pugs waited patiently to see Dr. Tom, and Lilly, after having a good sniff at the other dogs, settled down and laid there quietly. Finally our turn was called. Our custom is to unhook the doors as soon as we have the pugs in the room, and then shut the doors. Addie does not like to have her nails clipped, and she tries to run back into her crate. Barring that, she will run under the seat and hide. Her nails grow very fast, and she is a bleeder, so we feel more comfortable with the vet clipping them. Dr. Tom took each girl out to do a fecal to make sure we had no worms, and then each got her shots series. They all took them with fortitude til we got to Lilly, who would have loved to have given Dr. Tom what for when he clipped her nails. "Daddy" held her, though, and we talked to her as her chest rumbled deeply the whole time.

That crisis over, we loaded everyone up again, and the girls went to sleep immediately, so the ride home was peaceful. The pugs rode in the rear, and Ranger and I shared the back seat, while Lilly rode up front.

Home for five minutes, leave for the beauty shop. Home an hour and a half later for 45 minutes, and then leave for the commissary and the "big shopping". I took my time and hauled around two baskets, and dug through my coupons. I am hoping to get an organizer today to cancel having to stand in an aisle and look for the coupons I KNOW I have!

Home finally at 4:30 to bring in sacks, straighten the kitchen, throw dishes in the sink, and make meatball sandwiches for husband and stepson to eat while they finished up working on the new porch for the day.

We watched the NBA shootout, and then husband was off to bed while I channel-surfed. I realized I was going to sleep at 10, and gave up and joined the pugs and husband for dreamland.

We are having a quiet day today for the Lord's day. I am searching for four more standard size hens so will surf Craigslist and put out some feelers. We are going to fix a good Sunday dinner, and now that husband and stepson have gone off to church, I am going to slip out to the kitchen to bake a surprise for them.

The equines are sleeping in the sun, and the birds running happily back and forth from henyard to horseyard, Hannah snoring rythymically by my side, and all is well with the world.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Sunny Saturday, A Cold Sunday

Punxatawney Phil wasn't kidding this week! We had a wonderful Saturday with 67 degree highs, and followed it with a gloomy, gray Sunday that reached maybe 40! Typical Kansas weather.

On a high point, I saw a robin while out doing errands yesterday. Coupled with the red-winged blackbirds that are visiting our feeders, I know now that spring is definitely ... springing!

On a low point, I've dropped or banged the camera, and it doesn't seem to be working. As I can't figure out how to erase old pictures from the new movie camera, I am unsure how to transfer those pictures over, and the old camera (before this new digital) also doesn't seem to be working. I am no great photographer, but I carry a camera constantly, because you never know when you are going to get a Kodak moment.

I got some of those yesterday while out doing the evening chores. I sat and watched the Little Bunch for a while, while Rambo and the big girls were off in the pasture. The Little Bunch was gathered under the little henhouse in Fort Apache (the straw bale fort intended to protect the geese and ducks, who sleep in the horseyard). I marveled at Brownie. She is almost two, from a hatch two summers ago. She is a pretty brown hen, out of (probably) one of our two production reds, Rosy and Ruby, and Rambo, I am sure. We have had a succession of pretty brown part Buff Orpingtons these last four years. Anyway, Brownie was caught in some mesh we had used to cover a chick cage when still very young. Her leg became engtangled, and she was out in a blowing afternoon until I found her tangled and got the mesh off her and bundled her into the henhouse. We kept her in the nursing cage for weeks, as we could see the leg had become spraddled. We know our friends would have put her down, but we wanted to see what would happen. She learned to adapt with the bent leg... and hops along, following the others. The roosters know she is easy game, and constantly mount her, so that her back is bare. We are ordering a hen apron to protect her from their depredations. Every time we begin to feel badly for her and think of "putting her out of her misery" we marvel at the fact that she survived a terrible dog attack last year, and managed to become a productive member of our flock, giving us a nice brown egg daily. I hold the water dish for her at night so she can get a little drink from the dish while laying in her nest box-roost. Husband says she is spoiled. I say she is a plucky little girl and very happy!

Her father, Rambo, is our oldest and biggest rooster. He has only one eye, and survived the attack by three neighbor dogs that killed our beautiful huge bronze turkey, Jake, and so many of our chickens. Rambo was grievously injured, but we kept him in the nursing cage for weeks, and were so happy when we could introduce him to the flock. He takes good care of his harem, and keeps the other roosters in line.

Studly and Butch are almost two now, born two years ago when we had a glut of chicks. Studly is grey and black, like his father Billy (gone to the butchers). Butch is white, shaped like Billy, but colored like his grandfather, our first white black-tailed Jap bantam, Fred, lost to the dogs. They are my favorites, both beautiful, and both placid and wise, like Fred.

Curley, the red frizzle cochin, came here in disguise as a pullet... until he crowed. He keeps to himself, with a couple of the little hens for company. We would like to have some frizzle chicks, but hopefully not this year.

The Little Four, from last summer, are carbon copies of Studley and Butch... but also of their grandfather Fred. We can't tell them apart, but I call them One Two Three and Four.

They all have personality and we talk to them all while doing chores, and they talk back.

In fact, it's time to go see them now!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Interspecies Friendship

I know it's boring to everyone but the people who love animals, but we are still marveling at the interspecies friendship going on here on the "farm'. This morning as I left for work, I was glad to have the camera in hand. Beau came up to get water, and behind him marched Sammy, his goose friend. I took a series of pictures of them drinking, Beau from the low trough and Sammy from the high! Today the temps became milder... it was 67 when I left the office to come home. The ice on the pond was melted, and the geese and ducks were reveling, finally able to dive and clean their feathers that had been bathed for weeks in the fortex. We didn't have to carry buckets tonight, but used the hose... a blessing!

Tonight we went to a basketball game for my stepson's team, and the whole family was there to cheer him on. The boys played a great game, and it went down to the wire, losing by just a few points. Tomorrow is his ACT test, and then fitting for tuxes for his sister's wedding, so it's a big weekend. I will be running from here to there on errands... feed stores... groceries... cleaners... but look forward to sitting and scrapbooking for a while in the evening or on Sunday after church. Thank heavens we don't have to hear the alarm go at 5:15 AM tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Friends

Last night, as husband and I were catching up on the news of our respective days and doing chores in the big henhouse, we heard a noise outside. Husband had already turned the light off and the chickens had hunkered down on their roosts, going to sleep. We heard the noise again, and decided we had better go around through the gate and see what was making it. There, at the water fortex in the henyard, were Beau the pony and Sammy the goose. Not another goose or duck was anywhere near, just the two friends. We marveled again at the interspecies friendship as they ate out of the chicken feed bowl side by side, taking turns (yes the pony LOVES chicken feed).

Lacey the white mini is still not right... despite three days of actually going down in the pasture, she is now staying in her pen, where she can get to feed and water with no problem. We are still medicating her daily, though only once, while we see how she is getting around. The up side is that she is up more. We had a plunge into single digits again last night, and this morning is a ripe old 5 degrees, and we are tired of the ubiquitous buckets. Tomorrow, 66 degrees is predicted. Hallelujah!