Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas!

My last post was November 15... does that tell you what the last six weeks have been like? 

Oh, for the days when I was REALLY busy and yet, posted every night! 

I hope everyone has had a good December, and is having a peaceful Christmas. 

This is my sixth Christmas without Keith, I just can hardly believe it.  He was Mr. Christmas, he loved it... he loved giving gifts and he loved seeing everyone happy. 

We had our family gathering last Sunday.  Here's my little great granddaughter, Maci, 
opening her gifts.  That is her Aunt Paiton behind her. 

On Tuesday, I went down to Garnett to see my two 
big grandsons, Chris and Nathan.  Here is Nathan with his 
daughter, my second little great-grand... Aurora, who is six months old. 

We have had stunning weather for NE Kansas, it was 73 degrees yesterday on Christmas Eve.  I know I should be concerned about climate change... I am, actually, but if I never saw snow again in person I would be happy.  How on earth did our parents cope with the horrible heavy snowfalls of our youth?  
I know most of the moms stayed home then, but even walking to school was hard... ask me, I will tell you. 

Even though I have cut way back on feeding... I make sure I still have enough 
out for the squirrels daily.  I have so much fun watching them chase each other around the maple tree. 
I have to bring Bullseye in every afternoon for a while, so he doesn't intimidate them. 

Zoey, out in the yard she loves. 

All of my dogs in the past have sat in this same spot and 
looked out over "their" yard.  I looked out the door one morning in 
late November, and saw Zoey doing it. 
I knew she was staying right then. 

So, I went to Petsmart, because Snowy's groomer is 
on maternity leave.  I interviewed the groomer! 
(I know, I'm nuts). 

I took her the next week... and she came home to me all trimmed up. 
She is mine. 

She fits in perfectly at ten, we are all old except the cats. 
She gets along okay with the cats, very well with Jes. 
She can be Miss Growly Lip sometimes, and guard 
things.... but that does not last long and I always have a talk with her. 
She barks if she hears something outside, which I love... I have not had a barker since I 
lost Fritzi.  

She is a good little doll. 

I tried to get a Christmas picture of Jester, me and Zoey.  It did not happen. 
However, she WILL wear a little sweater outside. 

We have had some very cold mornings, and Jester will not move one step if you 
put any kind of clothes on him. 

Santa pointed at the setting moon one morning this week. 
I will miss Big Santa on my deck, but he will be deflated tomorrow morning and put away for another year. 

It was a beautiful day for a trip to see Keith.  It looked like 
Wreaths Across American made it to his section with just a few wreaths left, so put them partially on the front row, you can barely see them. 

These are marshmallows that have chocolate inside... dipped in caramel, and then 
rolled in Rice Krispies.  They are so good. 
I made so much stuff, that when it got down to the nitty gritty, I could not go on. 
I went to a local grocery and bought two trays of cookies, which I gifted.  I literally could not bake another thing.   I am rethinking everything for next year... 

Christmas crack (Chex Mix) 
A lot of this went out, too... but I saved a bit for me and my son to snack on. 

We had biscuits and gravy for breakfast, which is a rare treat for us. 
My brother Pete used to make it for Christmas morning, 
we would go to mass early and then go to his house 
and have a big breakfast.  Those were wonderful days. 

Keith and his little grandson Carson, many Christmases ago.  

I don't want you guys to think I am desperately lonely... Christmas is a time to look back.  I had wonderful friends visit me yesterday, and then went to see more wonderful friends and enjoyed a good visit.  
My family is close and I can see everyone regularly. 
The pandemic is still scaring me... and I am still wearing a mask everywhere, and as of tomorrow, I will be switching from cloth to "professional" masks... I have had two shots and a booster but I still do not want it. 
I have had two close friends with it recently (also had had two shots) and I just do not want it. 

I am still active at the National Agricultural Center and 
have so much fun there. 

The Smith House on December 10, we had a lovely bus tour that day of folks from Illinois and Indiana. 

If you want a laugh, you can google "Camel Loose in Bonner Springs" and see the story of Lucy, who broke away from her trainer on Saturday night of the first weekend and was finally caught 
twelve miles away, having made it down a very busy highway without being hurt or hurting anyone. 

Lucy's replacement. 

Merry Christmas, everyone.  

Thanks for reading Calamity Acres. 


Monday, November 15, 2021

Time Flies!

It's been a while, friends. 

I have good intentions, I do, but ... life. 

The last time I posted, Big Red, one of my favorite chickens had just died. 

I have lost four more old ones, including this girl. 

I wanted to show you something with this old girl.  She was an anonymous 
black hen, of the kind designated by hatcheries as 
"Black Stars", or some other all-encompassing word to indicate a hybrid egg layer. 
Her days of laying were LONG past.  She was five, maybe more, because she may 
have been one I bought from a local flock owner when I moved back here four 
years ago. 
See how washed out her face is?  She was aged.  If she were a younger girl, 
she would still have healthy color in her face and comb and wattles. 

Having said all that, everyday when I let them into the house side of the yard, 
she would make her way onto the porch and stand at the front door, staring at it. 

Like this. 

Like this. 

I would see her and put some treats out for just her, and she would 
grab them fast and eat before anyone else noticed. 
I'll miss that. 
I think I took this picture Wednesday or Thursday. 

She faded, and died Friday night, and I found her body under the nest box of the 
big hen house. 

RIP, Little Black Hen. 

There are only nine big hens left in there, and one does not sound well. 

The oldest rooster, Ferdy, is not roosting, but making a little place on the floor. I hate to say it, but 
he may be next. 

This is sweet little Zoe, a ten year old Shih Tzu I have had 
for two weeks from Bonner Animal Rescue as a foster. 
She is a doll. 

However... she will eat anything she can find on the floor except for dry cat food. 
Consequently, today she has diarrhea. 

Jester is a shy eater, and will wait all day to eat if he feels intimidated.  It's easy to say 
"feed them separately" but he will not eat a bite if he is locked in the bathroom and feels like 
he is being punished.  So... she will probably go on to an owner as a single pet. 

She is a really cute little girl with good recall... walks pretty well on a leash. 
Anyone local, she would make a wonderful pet. 

This is my view looking down the pasture towards my neighbor's ponds. 
See the little red tree? 

There is a huge tree that always turns red this time of year, and I am 
afraid I have missed it.  When I walk out to get the mail shortly, I'll look for it. 

We have had some glorious fall weather, but we also had snow flurries on Saturday!

Molly looks so innocent.  In truth, she lays UNDER that swinging planter, the 
last one I will ever use.... (because of all the waste last year) and grab birds as they land to eat.  I caught her as she did it yesterday, and the bird was able to get loose and fly away. 

So... the feeder is going to go on a shepherds hook.  I like this arrangement better, because it cannot swing wildly and spill.  You see, those sunflower hearts are THE most expensive of the feeds I buy. 
I am being very careful this year to not overfill any feeders, especially my flat feeder.... I just cannot continue to buy as much feed as I have in the past, it has gone sky-high.  I don't want the birds as dependent on it as they were in the last few years... so I put out a double scoop in the morning, and that's it. 


Meet Bullseye!
This kitten was a wilding down at the lake where my oldest son and family have a trailer. They spend weekends there for half the year.  This kitten came up to them repeatedly, and they began feeding it... and finally, one Sunday, Jim called and asked if I could take it. 

I said yes. 

He has had all shots and been neutered.  My vet's office fell in love with him. 

Here he is in action... and yes, I was warned about the Peace Lily and it is being removed. 
He is a stinker.... he and Jester LOVE each other and play together often. 

He and Molly play together after a standoff of a couple of weeks. 
He has sure livened up the place. 

The vet and I both think he is 4 to 5 months old. 

He may be a little attached to me. 

This is Cleo, one of the Kitty Cat Connection beauties. 
She was one of the wildest. 
She comes every morning and evening (well, most) and watches for me.
When I see her, I stop and go in and get her a can of food.  She has me well-trained. 
I also put the food dish out very early, so that all the ferals can come on deck and have some. 

This is Coal, one of the two newest ferals from KCC. 

She and Diamond Lil spent ten days in a big cage in my shop. 
They are both still around and eating regularly.  They know where the outside and the inside food is. 

Diamond Lil is a tortie, and here she is coming out of the cage on her day of Liberation. 

They are both still around, let's face it, they have it made here. 

My beautiful Rusty, the cat in my header, has disappeared. 

Wanda and Yeller are still here. 

Dawn this morning was beautiful. 

I am one of those weird people, I LOVE early nights. 
I love that the chickens are in by five, and I have the whole evening to relax. 

I found these eggs yesterday.  Let me say here that 
my old girls are almost finished laying, I get an egg from one of them once in a while.  
I am getting NO green eggs any more. 

The seven pullets I got this year are coming through, and three of the silkies. 
One pullet, however, is hiding her eggs, and not in the planter.  Someday I am going to find a huge stash. 

I will have enough for Christmas baking, though. 

Outtake of my helper. 

Wanda waiting on the big hen house porch for me last week one morning. 

Wanda was the spitfire who tired to nail me every time I stuck my hand in the Little Red Hen House to feed her.  Now she meows as soon as she sees me. 

Almost time to get Christmas out, but I am loving fall this year. 

I am going very, very spare with Christmas this year. 

Honestly, I will TRY to post more often so people don't think I fell off the ends of the earth. 


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Big Red

I've never written a post about a chicken before. 

Oh, about chickens... but not just one, I don't think. 

As I type this, Big Red is living out her final hours.  She does not appear to be in any pain, and is comfortable in the big hen house, where she has lived the last three years. 

I don't name many chickens... I read (or used to read) blogs where chicken keepers named every single girl, and wrote about them individually.  I have had pets here before, but I rarely name them.  They are, after all, chickens. 

But first, background. 

Five years ago, a wonderful hatchery donated fifty mixed chicks to the National Agricultural Center, where I volunteer.  There was a day camp there then, and an education director, and he and the children took most of the care of the chickens.  I went in on Saturday and Sunday to feed and water, at least the Saturdays he was not scheduled to work.  The following season, the same hatchery donated 24 cochin chicks in all colors... to join the first.  Yes, it was quite the flock. 

Again, the kids and the education director had primary care of them. 

At the end of the season, the ed director had resigned for a different job, the day camp had ended.  I took over caring for the birds.  When we closed for the year, we dispersed the flock so that someone did not have to care for them through the winter, as the remaining two employees were not chicken lovers. 

We parceled them out to friends of the Ag Hall, and I brought some home here.  I still have a few of them five years later.  

The subsequent two years, I took a group of birds to the Ag with which visitors interacted. They lived in the big chicken coop, but part of the problem was that they had to be shut up every day around four, because there were again, only two employees.  I took care of them on weekends and holidays. 

Last year and this year, because of the pandemic, we had no birds at the Ag, and because of the re-construction of a new ice house, their yard was actually taken down and will have to be reconfigured if the decision is made to have them again. 

Back to Big Red. 

She is a Buckeye. 

They are not prolific layers, and can be used for meat. She never laid very much. 

She is a handsome bird, though. 

I had numerous red hens, but Big Red, with her small comb, Medium Red and Little Red were all distinctive.  Little Red died earlier this summer, she had caught something in her crop or throat, and I had asked a neighbor to put her down, she could not eat or drink.  When he did it, something flew out of her neck, he thought she had had an obstruction. 

I am digressing. 

Here is Big Red the morning of the 27th.  Her comb is faded, her eye not clear. 
You can see how pale her face is, and I knew something was wrong there. 
She had always been one of the first out of the coop in the morning, and one of the last back in at night. 
I started watching her that day. 

Over the next week, she faded even more. 

Yesterday, she actually came out with the others from the big coop. 

I looked out the kitchen window about five PM to see this. 
I knew she would not be able to get back to the coop, across the yard, on her own. 

She is laying near the dish I use to feed the squirrels. 

I put my phone in my pocket and went out to pick her up, and was stunned to feel 
that she weighed hardly anything.  She used to be a big, heavy bird, but was 
clearly skin and bones. 

I set her inside the coop, but a few minutes later, I realized she had come out on the porch. 

She did not eat anything, or drink... I stayed out there a while. You can see how sad her feathers look, 
something sticky got on them and they look awful. 

Now, you ask, is she suffering? 

I don't think so, I think she is just shutting down.  She has stopped eating or drinking. 

She is not struggling to breathe, or anything. 

I took her in and sat her down near the water. 

See how her wing is drooping down?  She can't hold it up. 

Today, I was going to shovel out that coop, since my straw came Friday, but I am 
waiting.  For Big Red. 

I thought surely she had lived her last day. 

This morning, I found her here, under the nest boxes.  She is unable to get on the roost.    She is not eating or drinking at all; I put some scratch in front of her, and I actually wet her beak down three or four times, and put water near her... she does not want it. 
They know.  

I have been out three times to check on her, it's now 12:25, and she was still alive thirty minutes ago. 

If Keith were still alive, I would  have had him put her down three days ago, but I am a coward. 
It is my biggest failing as a chicken keeper. 

Again, I don't believe she is suffering... I think her body is just shutting down. 

As of today, there will only be eleven hens and two roosters in that coop. 
(I don't count the two silkie hens and chick that live in the brooder pen at night and go out to their pen during the day).  There are very few of the Ag hens still alive.  My chicks I raised this year are 
the main egg layers, and none is laying a big egg. 

In the old coop, there are only three hens and a rooster. 

In the little hen house, there are two silkie roosters, 7 pullets that have now come into lay, and of course, the two tiny silkie hens. 

On Thursday, I went outside to walk across the yard to the shop, and found a three year old hen dead in the middle of the yard.  NO clue... she appeared to be a healthy bird.  No warning, and this is how it is with chickens, they are prey animals and hide anything that is bothering them. 

Big Red, though... will be a loss. 

On the seventh, at 6:30 in the evening, I started out to lock up the birds. 

I saw this: 

My beautiful old girl, warming herself in the sunlight. 

She wasn't eating, she was just.... sunning. 

She made it back in under her own power.

You were a good bird, Big Red. 


Monday, October 4, 2021

Autumn! Best Time of the Year!

Autumn, the best season! 

Despite some higher-than-normal temps, it is beautiful here in northeastern 


If we could just get a little rain....

Four days were promised last week, with storms warned.  We did have clouds and 

thunder on Thursday, but despite a few sprinkles, the storm moved over.  Friday, 

we got a light rain.  I'm back to watering the plants again. 

I took that at sunrise on Sunday morning.  Yes, it's really that beautiful, and I'm glad to be alive and well enough to admire it. 

I put a bowl of cat food in the pasture daily for squirrels, the feral cats, and anything else that wants to eat it.  I stood and admired the view.  Yes, I miss seeing the sheep, but no... I do not miss emptying the 
heavy troughs every few days.  I am considering... right now, just considering... broadcasting some wildflower seed and letting the pasture grow up next year.  However.... this pasture was not cut the 
year I moved back, and had to be cut down with a tractor and bush hog (Called a "brush hog", here). 
So, there's that.  

It would make it hard for the wild critters to get around. 

It also kind of admits to defeat for me. 

A beautiful web in my garage on Saturday morning. 
Alas, by the evening, it had been destroyed, probably by a
 cat going through, or a chicken (on the anchor strings). 

This garage and the accompanying shop, a small barn with a cement floor, were 
near the original house on the property, which was on the south fence line. 
It was a u-pick berry farm back then, and encompassed my neighbor's ten 
acres and my neighbor to the east's acreage.  

My happy boy, Jester.  He is going to be ten this year, a venerable age. 
He is maintaining his weight, and except for the burst anal gland, has been 
getting along well.  I have switched him to a food that he seems to like, Bil-Jac Picky Eater. 
(chicken liver flavor).  We are going to the vet every six weeks now, for anal gland expression, and sure enough, last Monday he was found to need it.  The vet and I just looked at each other.  It will be a regular thing now. 

I am having trouble finding a good picture to show you all how very tiny Olive is.  She is the smallest of all the hens, probably not even a pound.  She is a Silkie, and that is Pipsqueak, one of the two Silkie roosters next to her.  One of the bigger pullets (now hens, they are all laying) is particularly mean to her, and she doesn't often come outside.  I would put her with the three Silkies who are in their own little pen, but I am not sure she would be happy with them. 

Those are two of the young pullets.  This is NOT the one that is attacking Olive. 

Can you see Molly? 

This beautiful girl is Cleo, who started out in the Little Red Hen House. 
Part of a big group of feral cats from Missouri, she is truly wild. 
She has been neutered and had a set of shots, but will not come 
near me.  I have learned to look in the morning and evening in the fenceline, to find her waiting for some canned food.  She is living now in the wild 26 acres across the road from me.  It's funny, because I can sense when she is around.  She will let me come within ten feet 
to put her plate down, and the porch cam has caught her eating on the deck many times. 
I go out at 5:30 in the morning in the dark to put a bowl of cat food out so she can eat early. 

There are Wanda and Yeller on deck on the seventeenth.  Wanda will meow to me  now when I go 
in the shop morning and evening to fill their dishes.  I keep dry cat food out there all day, but take it 
up at 8 so the darn raccoons won't get it.  Yeller will lay and stare at me, but he is not ready to be friends yet.  I have actually not seen him for two days, and am a little worried. 

Wanda is mousing at the big hen house too. 

Rusty has been missing for a week, but I am not worried... yet... of all, he can take care of himself

The harvest moon on the horizon... I got a bigger picture but it did not have the perspective! 

These are mourning doves on the feeder one morning. 

I have to say something here about the wild birds. 

Last year, I spent hundreds (probably thousands) on the 
blend of wild bird seed I have fed for years.  Like everything else, 
the price of the grain has been passed on to the consumer. 

I am no longer feeding from swinging feeders except for one 
very small one on my deck. 

Every night, I go out to the flat feeder (on the right just barely visible in this picture) and I scoop out 
what seed is not used that day.  I leave just a tiny bit for the raccoons. 

In the last three weeks, almost no wild birds have been feeding.  I have not seen a woodpecker in a month, and I actually threw away suet that had molded ... no one had been eating it. 
Several other people here locally have mentioned that they have not seen any woodpeckers. 
I would say only a fifth of the birds who normally eat have been coming to the feeder. 

I have a separate feeder for the small birds, with a blend of small seed, sunflower hearts and 
dried mealworms.  There are some still eating there. 

I do not attribute it all to Molly lurking around either, because others locally are 
writing about it.  I suspect natural food is in great abundance right now. 

It has been so good to have a respite from the expensive feed for a bit. 
I am not going to feed with the swinging feeders this winter, and won't put seed out in 
abundance as I did before.  

The only remaining swinging feeder is in back of Molly here. 

There is a comm tower across from my bedroom, and I always watch it for birds. 

Here is a vulture (my favorite bird, and soon to leave us for the winter) in the horaltic position last week. 

Two weeks ago, I was ready to tear the plants out of the 
big planters in the forefront here.  They all looked dead.... and then, miraculously, the weather got a little cooler, and the vining plants began to bloom again profusely, and the geraniums perked right up! 

I have actual sweet potatoes growing under those vines, and next year, I'll plant only sweet potatoes in those planters, as the calibrachoa got drowned out. 

 Some nights I don't get the bowl in fast enough :-). 

Proof that this is my little slice of heaven. 

A good thing to remember when you are wondering what your life is about.