Monday, April 17, 2017

For the Bird and Bees

There is so much to tell.

While the writer in me wants to take the time to tell the story, the utilitarian in me would like bullet points to get through it all. 

In my last report, Goldie was sharing a nest with the duck, and I had plans to separate them. We moved Fluffy and her chick, Bailey, out to the stable, along with Goldie and her chicken eggs. Everyone settled in nicely. The duck was happy to have her nest all to herself, and Goldie barely blinked at being moved. Bailey took to snuggling up with Goldie and her eggs at times. On chillier night, all three would snuggle up together in Goldie's nest.
When Goldie's eggs started hatching, the two baby chicks took to Fluffy right away, while Goldie stayed on the nest, waiting for the rest to hatch. It became apparent they never would, so I removed them before the stink got bad. Soon, they were a tight knit little group of two mamas looking out for three chicks, regardless of who had sat on the egg.

Meanwhile, the duck still had a week to go on her eggs, and her pile kept growing as she incorporated any egg laid on the floor of the coop. 

Then we acquired some bees. I waited a little too long to check on them after installation, and was confronted with some large drawn-out combs attached to the bottom of the feeder. 
The good news was that I could tell the queen was laying. The bad new was, I didn't know what damage I did when removing the comb, if any. A week later showed spottily-capped brood and perhaps some attempts by the bees to make a new queen. I will check soon to see what happened.

Back in the chicken coop, the duck hatched out five, cute, little ducklings.

Soon after, we moved Goldie, Fluffy, and the three chicks back out to the coop.

That was a mistake. 

A few days later, Goldie went missing. Aside from a few downy feathers scattered about, there was no sign of her. We checked everywhere: in Jane's hutch, underneath the coop, behind the feed bins, everywhere. I couldn't understand it. There was no way I saw that she could have escaped the aviary and wandered off. Maybe, I hoped irrationally, she was so loved, God whisked her away like he did Elijah.

The next day, I checked the coop, and -horror of horrors- found a mangled, half-eaten Bailey in the back corner of the coop. Something was getting in.

Now, I know there are these little articles floating around the internets about opossums and how great they are because they eat ticks. But chicken keepers don't care. Chickens eat ticks, and opossums eat chickens. Opossums are not welcome here on the farm.

The next morning saw a possum in the trap outside the coop, and we will have to be a little more careful with the hole (aka. possum access) we have in the gate that lets us chain it shut.

In other news, we finally put up the bat houses I received last year for my birthday. I stood outside at dusk a few nights ago, and was delighted to see two or three little bats swooping through the air above the farm. We have no idea if they are making use of the new accommodations, but at least the bats will know they are welcome here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Messing with the Mamas

I underestimated the duck.

After noticing the duck had laid one egg back in the nest with Goldie yesterday, I snatched it out and placed it in another pile of duck eggs in a different corner of the coop. This morning, I went out to check on the birds, and noticed first thing that there was only ONE duck egg where I had left the pile the day before. Befuddled, I dug around in the mound of hay surrounding the single egg, thinking they might have gotten buried in the hay, but nothing was there. I glanced back over toward Goldie's nest (that the duck had just abandoned when I came in), and there they were. Somehow, that duck had moved her eggs back to the nest she was cohabiting with Goldie!
Meanwhile, Fluffy-Head was getting hungry. As soon as I threw down some feed a few feet away from her nest, she jumped up to eat, and I was able to get a picture of her chick.
Finley named the chick Bailey after her band-mate that shares a birthday with the chick.

I figured I probably needed to move FH and her chick to the pen in the stable so they would have hassle-free access to food and water. I plan to move Goldie and the chicken eggs out there later tonight, in hopes she won't get too shook up by the move and the duck will get to have her duck-egg nest all to herself. Who knew birds could be so complicated?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Funny Farm- Fowl Feature

It's springtime once again on the Funny Farm. The daffodils and a peach tree are blooming, the tulips are poking up through the soil, and the grass looks green and lush. And this weekend we might get snow. I am a little disgruntled.

We are also in the throes of chick-fever. The incubator is cooking up some eggs, and out in the chicken coop, there are other things happening.

A few weeks ago, I noticed Fluffy-Head, our little white silkie, stubbornly sitting in one corner of the chicken coop floor. I was a little surprised, because I had been good about gathering eggs daily, and knew there couldn't be but a few under her fuzzy bum. A few days in, and I finally caught her off the nest grabbing a quick bite to eat. Only one egg. But I could tell, she was determined.

About a week later, I caught our other silkie hen, Goldie, acting a little broody.
Goldie was sitting on a big pile of duck eggs, her little body not quite big enough to cover them all. Worrying that she wasn't going to be able to keep them all sufficiently warm and that the longer incubation period for duck eggs would be hard on her, I swapped the duck eggs out for some chicken eggs. Though Goldie grumbled a bit when I lifted her off the nest, she settled right back onto the new eggs without much complaint.

But, poor little Goldie. I didn't realize there was a kooky mama duck half fixated of that pile of eggs. Periodically, when I would go in to gather eggs or check on the birds at night, that duck would be nestled down next to Goldie. Then, disturbed by my intrusion, she would jump up and run off, leaving Goldie to tend the nest solo again. On top of it all, mama duck is still laying eggs, mostly in locations other than the original nest. Even though I've tried to pile them up in the spot she laid most recently, she'll keep going back to sit on the nest with Goldie. I guess ducks aren't too bright.

Yesterday, Finley noticed that Fluffy-Head's egg had pipped. I watched for a bit while F-H was off her nest, and sure enough, out popped a beak, breaking free another little section of egg. Quick births seem to be rare occurrences. Eggs are no exception, so I knew enough to be patient and wait until morning to check on the chick.

Last night, a cold front moved in, and today isn't nearly as warm. Fluffy-Head is refusing to move from the nest, but periodically, I can hear the chick peeping somewhere under the fluff. I am tempted to try to snatch F-H off the nest just to catch a glimpse of her baby, but am not sure I want to traumatize them. We'll see. Impatience may overcome my empathy.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Letter To My Cousin Once Removed

Dear Jeff-

When I talked to my mother this morning, she said she told you she wasn't going to tell me that you commented on the increasing infrequency of my blog posts. Obviously, she did anyway.

Just so you know, I was about to start this letter, when I remembered that I needed to call my accountant before I didn't remember to. He told me it wouldn't be a bad idea to put off invoicing until after the new year, so that is one thing off my plate for now. That is welcome news, since my plate seems fuller than my husband's on Thanksgiving Day. There is the load of laundry sitting in the washing machine begging to be dried. (I'm not worried about that, though. It's winter, and the laundry can sit in there for a solid day before starting to smell musty and needing a re-wash.) The toilets are about a week overdue for a scrubbing. Finley baked cookies yesterday for holiday parties at school, and the kitchen counter is littered with dirty pots, pans, and utensils. (I have been threatening and coercing and heaping guilt upon that girl in an effort to get her to clean up after herself without being asked, but apparently the part of her brain that dictates order does not function. I am hoping it is just a hormonal, pre-teen thing, and not something that is permanently broken.) It's a good thing we don't have mice. The amount of crumbs scattered throughout would make them fat and happy. The truck needs to have its intake gaskets replaced. I have bales of pine needle sitting in my un-weeded flowerbeds. You are beginning to get the picture.

Truthfully, there have been at least one hundred posts I've started in my head, but pushed aside in an effort to accomplish the things on my mental list of priorities. A few times, I actually sat down and started to type one out, but I was either interrupted or my thoughts veered completely off the original path and I gave up. Today, however, priorities have shifted and come hell or high water, I'm writing.

It occurs to me that some of the blame for my failures lie squarely on the shoulders of your cousin, my mother. I have people suggest that I set aside a time slot for writing (or other artistic endeavors that fall short of the survival category). Frankly, though, my mother did a lousy job instilling a habit of self-discipline in me. As well-intentioned as my intentions are, I just can't seem to keep appointments with myself.

Now, if some one else gives me an assignment and a deadline, I'm on it. Paper due in the morning? I will eek it out in the wee hours of the night. Kids out of underwear? The washing machine jumps to action. Knowing this about myself, I did sign up for an art class this year. Having shelled out a chunk of money and someone to tell me what to do, I've actually painted a few things this year (see below). Perhaps I should hire you to be my writing boss, and then the words will flow.

I don't know why I've let your expectations dictate my morning, but they have. And what will I get in return? You have a way with words, but aside from a clever poem every decade or so and the occasional (and I mean occasional) e-mail, I never read anything from your pen. If I ever find out that you have a trove of stories and poems ferreted away in a desk somewhere that no-one has had the pleasure of reading, I will be first upset, then delighted. So I suggest that unless there are a myriad of legitimate excuses your retired self cannot write, you make use of the frigid, Montana winter and scribble a few things down.

I hope you and Sandy are staying warm and well.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Road Trip

There are things I really miss about Nashville. The library. The variety of fun parks. The variety of food options. Good coffee shops. Wishing Chair Productions' shows at the library. Did I mention the library?

Sometimes I wonder why we don't go hang out in Nashville more often.

Today, we headed to the big city to meet friends at Cumberland Park on the river. Z and Joe were absorbed in electronics for most of the ride there. It wasn't until after we had turned off Vietnam Vets Blvd. that they looked up, saw Nissan Stadium and FREAKED. "We're in Nasvhille! I love this place!!"

We found a parking spot, got out of the van, and started walking toward the park, the kids taking in everything around them.
"Look at those buildings! I'd be scared to go in one. I'd be scared to walk across that bridge!"

I almost felt like a failure, having unintentionally sheltered my kids from big-city experiences for six long years in the country. Why don't we come here more often?

We played at the park. We walked. We crossed the scary bridge. We got some coffee and treats. We walked some more. We looked at fountains and climbed walls and walked some more, crossing the not-so-scary-anymore bridge again, and ended up back at our vans.

It was a good day.

Then we started the hour-long drive home.

I don't deal well with tired, cranky people when I'm tired and cranky myself. So I will spare you the details of the melt-downs each one of us had on the way home. And that drive home, I realized, is one big reason we don't spend more time in Nashville.