Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Beginning of a New Week

Score One for the Craftsman lawnmower... I managed to not only tear off the discharge thingy so that the blade is exposed, but managed to break the BRAND NEW belt that husband had just put on it for me yesterday! Okay, I was trying to cut the heavy pasture grass on the south side that had not been cut this year with a YARD MOWER.

Consequence? The one week I need the rider, it is sitting in the shed, waiting for a new belt to be put on AGAIN.

This is the start of what I fondly call "Fourth of July Week" on my calendar. Husband and stepson will be leaving Friday for the University of Arizona baseball camp, and I am having members of my own family over for my first-ever private cookout at Calamity Acres. Though the party will be small, I am primping up the yard for them, and we are trying to finish the deck so it can be used for "settin" if the weather is good. Though I cut for hours today, I need to mow one more time before the party so that the yard is good for the Big Day, so husband will again go to Sears and buy another belt and fix the mower.... he did NOT yell at me, and simply said it was probably not a good thing to cut the thick pasture grass with my yard rider. "nuff said, and I'll follow his suggestion. Next year we hope to have a middle-size tractor with a brush hog to do our own pasture, and in the coming years, a plow, a hay rake, and a tiller for the garden and pasture. It doesn't hurt to dream!

The intense heat of last week has broken, and today was seasonably warm but nice. Chores were a pleasure, and everyone was happy to get clean water (twice) and fresh feed. Still no baby cria, but Mama Llama and Tony are loving the weather. The only ones unhappy are the ducks... their pond has become red algae and looks nasty. They are drinking from the horse trough, and bathing in the swimming pool in the chicken yard. We are saving a bundle on feed now that we are feeding only in the chicken yard, with no access to marauding llamas or ponies!

Today we set Dovey free with her two little cockerels. They were bewildered, but she stuck close to them all day in the Big Henhouse. Tonight I went out to check... One was perched on the waterer... the other on the floor... and their Mama was up on the roost with the other birds! So much for maternal care! Though I have steeled my heart to their possibly becoming Snake Food for Mr. T, I did feel sorry for them and wondered if for a moment I should swoop them up. However, Reason, for once, prevailed and I left them alone. We'll see if they are out there in the morning. The Silkie Sisters are back on a pile of unfertile eggs they have laid in the little henhouse, and their five chicks are taking care of themselves, still imprisoned with their Mamas. They are nice little chicks and appear to be silkie/cochin crosses, but are quite small, so I am keeping them in for another month, then they too can join the bigger flock. Still imprisoned in her little pen is Rosewitha and her three bigger chicks... they are so nice, I would hate to lose them at this point, so they are staying locked up. I may turn Rosewitha loose, though , since it doesn't seem fair to pen her with them forever, especially since Baby Rambo is now trying to breed his mama!

Who says there is never any fun in the barnyard?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cleaning the Chicken House

Okay, not the favorite farm chore around here, but it has to be done at least twice a year. The chickens don't like a buildup of smell and filth any better than we do. After weeks of finding excuses to put it off, I decided to tackle it the hottest Sunday afternoon of the year so far.
After five or six trips with my little yard cart to the flower beds, the deed was done. Things sure smelled better! Fresh straw was spread lightly, and by Monday night, the chickens had spread it out well. I'm going to refrain from tossing grain on the floor of the chicken house, and they can eat it out of their feeder, though Mr. T has been keeping the mice down. Six months before I have to do it again!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Flight of the Swallows

For two months now, a pair of swallows have been taking care of babies on our porch. Despite our sitting there talking, they swooped and chattered in front of us and across our line of sight, all the while taking care of babies who peeked out over the lip of the nest to see what was going on in their world. Down below them lay the two cats, Gwen and Nickie, in their respective porch chairs, and I held my breath daily as we waited for a fledgling to fall into a cat's waiting paws.

Instead.... Thursday morning I got up to find not three but FOUR little swallow fledglings on the wire outside the porch, chattering away to their proud parents! I snapped some shots as they practiced flying up and down the wire, and then as they all flew away towards the pasture! What pleasure to see them safely launched into the wide world. Like last year's clutch, they have joined the Big Bird Flock to make their own ways, and now our porch has grown strangely silent again.

Samantha, the Beautiful Goose

She was truly a beautiful goose. Probably not a purebred African since she came from the home of a person who does not separate her geese, but runs them all together, but to us she was a beautiful girl, and very tame. She loved her pony, Beau, and would often follow him around when the other goose (Timmy) and the ducks were busy at the pond or feeding in the pasture grass. She preferred to eat with Beau at his bowl, and they could often be found laying together.

When she was a little gosling, Donald, our demented call duck drake, chased her hard one day and ran her into the henyard fence, hurting her head and making it bleed. I despaired then, and thought we had lost our little gosling, but she held on and regained her strength. She and Timmy throve on the chicken feed and pasture grasses. They were overjoyed to find the little pond and began swimming on it with the ducks, and Tim began to look out for little Donald and his girls.

In time, we lost Tim to the coyotes, but Sammy went onto her nest and protected her eggs against all comers. We could not see how they could be fertile, but she believed it in her heart. We think, we guess, that that is how she became grievously injured two weeks ago, by some creature that came upon her in the high pasture grass and slashed at her. A raccoon? We have not seen any and don't know. Her wounds were too much, though, and last Sunday before church I found her, gone in the horseyard where she spent so many happy hours with Beau and Lacey.

On Saturday we had to put down a small chick of Dovey's, and have watched it's two siblings closely. They seem healthy, but are also both cockerels, so must be found homes for because we have too many as it is. We must keep Baby Rambo, who grows strong and brave in his dog pen with his mama and his two sisters. It is too early to determine what the five Silkie babies are.... but we cannot keep any more roosters than Rambo's last son. Someone here around us will get a ready-made farmer's yard package of cockerels and pullets to start them out on chicken-keeping in a few months.

In the meantime, we miss Sammy, and her honk. She spoke to me daily when I did chores, and I miss her conversations, honks to my comments to her. The Toulouse are nice geese, but Sammy had personality and was a pet, who is much mourned.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mr T

Okay, my husband named him!

Last year on one memorable day, we had five black rat snakes in the henhouse at once, two mating who rolled literally between our legs.

Mr. T has lived there now for 3 years, and he is the only one we have seen this season. He is healthy, and we are not afraid of him, nor he of us, just cautious. We leave him alone, and so far, he has not taken any chicks. We'll do our best to keep that from happening, but unfortunately, Lady the black cochin is now on a clutch in the duckhouse, and he hasn't discovered her yet. This time nature is really going to take it's course, because our eleven chicks now are enough for the season!

Don't Tread on Me!

Sally, the Toulouse Goose, has been laying on eggs in the little pasture fort now for three weeks. Last night she got off for a few minutes, and was greeted with a cacophony from the other three Toulouse as she went for food and water. Taking advantage of her momentary excercise, I walked over to take a look at the nest. Lucky I looked up because a Goose Missile was barreling towards me ninety miles an hour, neck outstretched and beak open, hissing! I rapidly vacated the straw fort and left Sally to her motherly ministrations!

Happy the Duck

Last Monday, when Sierra and Josie went home to our friend, Theresa brought me a little drake to keep my three Duckie Girls, Martha, Mary and Mattie, company. Out from his cat carrier he came, into the big henyard, bustling with chickens. He was disoriented and didn't realize where he was. Bewildered, he walked around rather sadly, feathers sticking up every which way. Soon, Mattie and Mary came and discovered him, and there was much joyful quacking as they introduced each other. It was two days before he realized how to get out of the henyard, so he contented himself with eating and bathing in the swimming pool there. Now he is with his girls, going from yard to pasture and back, and swimming on the now full again pond. He IS happy... and the feathers are ruffly, so he must not be pure Pekin, though he looks it. He is a Happy Duck!

Time to Get Outa Here!

Baby Rambo, his two sisters, and his mama Rosewitha are outgrowing the rabbit hutch they have lived their lives in for the past eight weeks. Time to rotate cages... Baby Rambo and his family to the pen in the henyard, and Dovey and her three small bantam chicks to the rabbit hutch. The Silkie Sisters have the run of the little henhouse, so will be fine in there for another two months with their five babies, who are way too small to launch on the world. Today will be the day that the moves are made, so that Rosewitha and her babies can spread out a little, and see the world. We'll wrap the pen in chicken wire to keep Mr. T at bay, and the Four Little Red Hens, Nellie, Beryl, Grace and Mabel, will have to give in and sleep in the big henhouse or in the other doghouse. I wish they would go into the big henhouse where they can be safely shut up from raccoon and oppossum, but short of catching them each evening, it ain't gonna happen!

A Worry for the Weekend

Four days ago, I noticed Samantha, our beautiful African goose that we brought here a tiny gosling, standing quietly in one of the doghouses in the henyard. She didn't honk as she always does to me, but stood there oddly, bent over. Hurrying through chores before work, I spoke to her as I went by, but did not bend to look at her. It was not until the next day that I realized there was a nasty place on her right front breast. The feathers were hanging oddly, and she was still silent. I watched her walk under the little henhouse and hold her neck very, very still. I realized there was a wound there. Another day went by, and husband was out of town. I did not want to stress her out by chasing her, but realized something bad was going on. Last night he came home and kindly came out before changing to see what was going on with our lovely girl. As he picked her up he made a low-voiced comment.... look..... she had maggots in a wound that something had caused across her breast. I know she has not (maybe cannot) laid down in 4 days now, but she seems able to walk a little and also to drink a little and keep her bill clean. We soaked the wound with iodine and this morning, checking it, found all the maggots gone. There is a bad smell.... it scares me.... but we did not put her down because we want to give her a fighting chance. I see her now out in the horseyard with the other geese... and see that she is still holding her head oddly. My heart goes out to her... we will not let her suffer long, but we want to see if she can heal this terrible wound that we think a raccoon or possum made on her. Living in the country is sometimes not easy, we have had to put down injured birds and animals numerous times since moving here, but Sammy, if it happens, will get an honorable burial by Rambo and my bench at the pond, where she and Timmy and the ducks were so happy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sometimes Life Intervenes

It has been a good two weeks since your blogger sat down to her computer and blog to record anything, because sometimes life intervenes.

Two weeks ago, the lovely gray mare Sierra came with her foal Josie to stay for the summer, eating the pasture's rich green grass. She was very afraid of Mama Llama the first few days, but finally conquered her fears to come up near the chicken house. There she learned that good chicken feed was put out in the morning, and your blogger came home regularly to find that the chicken feed meant for the birds was wiped out by a horse getting fatter by the day, who saw no need to eat the green grass when the delicatessen was open. Finally, the chicken yard fence was adjusted and a panel removed close to the ground, and the birds quickly learned that though the gate was shut... the fence was open. Llamas and horses were perplexed, and shut out of the good food. We coasted along like this for several days until Sunday night, when Mama Llama and Tony came up to the trough for a drink. Sierra, looking up, saw them and charged like a wild thing, knocking Mama to the ground in her hind end. A clap from me drove her off, but immediately after checking to see if Mama could walk okay, I came to the house and called her owner, my friend, to ask that she pick them up. Mama, who was used to horses, was still an alien thing to Sierra, so Monday night, off they went in their trailer, leaving Uncle Beau calling and calling for them for two days. Though we miss their beauty and their sleekness, we don't miss the worry of knowing whether or not Mama will be okay.

My friends the llama breeders have written to say that their herd is now calving, so to watch for Mama to have her cria any day now. I am going out regularly in the morning and counting legs.... still eight, not twelve. Tomorrow night I'll make a soft bed of clean straw in the barn for her, so that she has somewhere to bring the little one when it is born. She likes the barn, and I find her in it regularly, either resting and chewing her cud or just laying and enjoying the coolness of the barn. I hope that she will still feel like she can bring the little one there, so I will know it is safe.

Sammy, our dear African goose, has been sitting now for six weeks on a nest of eggs which we believed to be infertile since Timmy, our gander, has now been gone for over two months. Finally hunger drove her to abandon the nest, and I checked it yesterday, the majority of the eggs are hidden under a tightly bound covering of grasses and weeds, and five eggs on top appear to be fairly new. Several eggs had become broken, and we believe now that a creature of the night drove her from the nest. For two days, Samantha has been standing either in one of the doghouses of the chicken yard, or under the Little Henhouse (on stilts) and not making any of her customary honks. Last night I found Ship, the big gander with her, but when he moved off she stayed. Tonight I saw why... she has been attacked by something and her right breast or wing hurt. It looks like the blood has dried, but I'll wait until tomorrow night when husband returns from a trip to take a good look. Either she will heal or not, we cannot make a difference with a large goose as we can sometimes with smaller hens or roosters. I am most concerned because she seems unable to lay down, and I fear she will finally fall in exhaustion. I had hoped the llamas would ward off coyotes, but that is not to say that it was a raccoon or opposum that caused this wound.

Last night I found the feral cat we saw all winter dead in our road. Husband came along on an errand just then, and told me he had found him the night before, freshly killed, as if someone had aimed and hit him. He threw him into the pasture alongside the road, but the vultures had carried him out into the cleared area so they could clean him up for us. God's Cleanup Crew are majestic birds whom we love to watch wafting on the wind, and though they are forbidding and black, they serve a real purpose out here in the country, cleaning up along the roads and pastures.

Sunday afternoon was spent looking at the llama herd of a longtime llama breeder, who was able to answer so many questions about the lovely beasts. She had some very nice young cria who will be for sale at the end of the summer, and gave a lot of advice for me until I can bring home a birthday present in September. Yes, I picked several young cria that I liked, but we will see how the new baby here is before I make any more purchases!