This week looks like it might be a good one. Moose, #4, and myself are already on to the itchy phase of healing (bee stings), which means they'll be better in no time! I've got two meetings lined up tomorrow to meet people to send Bacon and Wanda off to new homes. I had hoped to get something lined up for Donna and possibly Fabio too, but that person never got back to me. This Saturday Ginger Bear finally gets to go to his new home.
We had a bit of a rough day today. While #4 and I were in the side garden picking blueberries, Moose was sitting beside a mound of sod left over from last year when we prepared the garden space. He had his frisbee with him and was waiting for us to be done so I could throw it for him. The garden is fenced, so he was on the other side of the short fence. Suddenly he did some kind of spectacular side kick flip (quite a feat for a heavy bully-built dog like Moose). He then yelped, tucked his tail and ran like death was chasing him off and around the house. He's done this before and I recognized it immediately as a bee sting. I didn't think much of it. He probably tried to snap at it while it was flying by. But then at the same time I heard the buzzing and looked over to see his white frisbee go completely dark with swarming bees. This was only about three feet away from us, so I stood up and yelled for #4 to get up and run in the house as fast as she could.
I was too late. She looked up, hesitated a moment, and was covered in bees. I was already opening the garden gate on the opposite side, and as she ran through screaming and flailing. At this point I was alternatively telling her to stop yelling and flailing, while calling dogs and the other two kids who were out in the yard to come in. We converged at the doorway, three dogs, two kids, and me - barreling through and slamming the door behind us, #4 still wailing, and #5 not knowing why we were so frantic. We got in the house, and I found the other child who'd been outside, safely indoors. I tried to check what the damage was. Poor #4, I could see her nose swelling up under her glasses, tears streaming down her face, obviously trying not to scream as she indicated her forehead scalp area. There was a bee, caught in her hair, still stinging her. I grabbed a paper towel and removed it from her hair, while getting stung twice in the back by a bee that followed us in. As I was un-ensnaring #4's hair bee, #3 started shrieking in the other room. Another bee that had followed us in was caught in her shirt and she'd manage to pull her shirt away from her body with the bee tangled in the shirt, avoiding a sting. As I grabbed another paper towel and took care of that bee, I felt another sting to the back of my neck. I asked #1 to put some baking soda and water in a bowl to make a paste and pulled my own shirt off, revealing a sting to the arm, two in my armpit, two on my back, and fortunately the sting to my neck did not deliver any venom.
We patched up all of the stings with the paste and let it dry. This helps get out any stuck stingers or extra venom. I don't know if #4 will be able to wear her glasses to school tomorrow. She got stung right on the bridge of her nose and just beside her tear duct on her nose., she has a sting on one leg and the spot in her hair where the stuck bee was repeatedly stinging.
Once I got her calmed down, I turned my attention to the dog. Moose's right eye started to swell up, he was obsessively licking his side, and kept randomly running through the house like a maniac. He's got welts all over his back and sides, but after a few minutes he settled down for the most part. We peeked out the girls' bedroom window, where Moose's frisbee still sat, just a few feet away. It was close to 45 minutes after the initial stings when the bees stopped swarming over the frisbee.
We caught one of the bees that followed us in, and I put it in an old cinnamon container with the sprinkle lid so it would have air. #3 looked it up and identified the culprits as yellow jackets.
I'm so glad that nobody is allergic to bee stings!
Of course this puts me in a tough spot. I love nature, and firmly believe in the "they were here first" thought process. I would prefer to leave them alone and just let them be. Unfortunately they are right up in the yard, where our kids and pets play, literally feet from the house and the garden space. This hive is a (proven) danger to our homestead. With some sadness (yes, even after they stung us), I had Tony pick up hornet killer after work today and he will be spraying them down, hopefully in the morning. He was going to do it tonight but he couldn't figure out where their entrance is in the dark and he's hoping first morning light will help him pinpoint where to spray. I don't like using pesticides, and I don't like destroying wildlife. This one was a harder choice than it should be. But alas, safety is paramount.
My goal for this week is perhaps a bit lofty, but I hope to go through the seed collection and get it reorganized and put back together. It's gotten a little spread out and messy and even when it's neat and tidy it can be daunting to find what I want. The collection has become a bit of a hoard. On the plus side, I have instructed my family to donate the collection (less whatever they want for their own personal use) to Seed Savers when I die. I've got some fairly rare varieties in there that may be of better use in the hands of professional growers. And who knows? Maybe by the time I die some of the common ones won't be so common anymore. Or better yet - maybe the rare ones won't be so rare anymore. But either way, the entire collection will be donated upon my death to help preserve biodiversity. I only hope at least some of it ends up being useful to someone.
I also have a laundry basket full of clothes the kids have decided either they don't want, or they don't fit in anymore. I have to go through it all and figure out what is too stained, torn, cut, or damaged to be of any use (crafting materials), and what looks good enough to sell or donate. I see a couple of coats in there. I should call the local charity that does the coats for kids thing around Christmas and see how I can donate them.
Toby went largely untrained for the several months I was so sick. I'm making up for it now. Toby usually sleeps in a crate. He tends to chew on things and often can't "hold it" for long periods. Some mornings he would start to pee at the door in his excitement to get outside, and leave a trail as he ran out the door (even if the door was open when he got to it). I'm so happy to say that the last two nights, Toby has been allowed free roam of the house. He hasn't been crated at all in several days now outside of bedtimes last week. He's only had one accident in the house, and I'm not sure why he did because he'd been going out regularly. Either way... progress! He's also very much enjoying sleeping in the bedroom with Tony and I and Arya.
Which reminds me. Ditto is now fantastic with dogs! She slowly came around and she now plays with the dogs. She'll bat at their snouts (no claws) to instigate play, and then they will mouth her (open mouth, not biting down). It's adorable. I have a video of Toby and Ditto playing on my TikTok (thatpetlady) if anyone wants to go look it up.
I'm still discussing with Tony on what we should do with Luna's kittens. They're nearing the eight week mark where they can start finding homes, but none have homes lined up yet. It's getting cold out, and a big part of me wants to bring them indoors... but our house is full now and packing in six more kittens doesn't seem like a great idea. I mean, when Ditto came in the house she didn't have any siblings - it was just one kitty and she was already well past eight weeks old. At least the kittens have been using the litter box in the screen porch so we know they're capable of using one if they come inside. Ideally I'd just like to find them all homes. That would solve the problem!
Welcome to September already! Temperatures are cooling down, the leaves will soon start changing colors, and before we know it, we'll be in the bitter grip of winter again. School starts this week. I'm both excited and anxious. All of the school open houses, teacher meetings, and kindergarten screenings are done. Backpacks are packed, some are already in lockers dropped off on open house days. The bus driver has called with the new pick up time. All of the new school clothes are folded and put away, awaiting the school year. Schedules are printed, locker combinations have been tested, and the kids have connected with friends once again and compared schedules and lunch times. The kids are excited to head back to school.
Yesterday Tony and I took the two oldest kids (#1 and #2) to the Renaissance Festival. It was so much more enjoyable without the little kids. I've never gone without little ones, so this was a real treat. I love seeing the vendors, the entertainers, and the costumes. I always ogle the beautiful dresses in the shops. I have neither the body, nor the pocket book, for such beautiful things. This weekend the theme was Bellies and Beer I think, but they were having a costume contest: Steampunk. I admit, I love the aesthetic of gears and old fashioned things, so we scheduled our trip accordingly.
While there we watched the costume contest, Danger Committee, and Puke & Snot. We tried to watch the jousting but it was so crowded we couldn't see anything and the announcer's microphone was cutting out badly, so we couldn't even hear what was going on. Not a big loss though, we've watched the jousting before. I love seeing the dogs that people bring. We saw German shepherds, great Danes, Irish wolfhounds, huskies, malamutes, great Pyrenees, and more. At one point #1 just rolled her eyes and said "Mom, quit pointing out every dog you see and saying what breed it is..." We walked past the little exotic zoo, and the pen right out in front had white geese just a hair smaller than our embdens. As we got closer I realized what they were and got excited. I pointed to the gorgeous curled feathers and exclaimed "Sebastapol geese!" to which my daughter replied "Of course you'd see geese and know what breed they are..." We all have talents and passions, mine just happens to be knowledge about animals. We had a good laugh about that.
Not to feel left out, Grandma took the three younger kids (#3, #4, and #5) to the zoo. I'm told it was crowded but fun. The zoo was having some kind of promotion where they invited people to enjoy the zoo with various "local heroes" - police men, EMTs, firemen, etc. Apparently it brought in quite a crowd.
On Friday I dug up the King Edward potatoes. I failed miserably at gardening this year, and despite not doing anything to my potato towers (like, not raising it and adding dirt like I needed to, never watering it, and letting the grass grow long around the towers), this variety managed to produce some good sized fingerling potatoes.
I still have two more potato towers with other varieties that haven't died back yet. I'll have to wait a bit longer to see if those ones produced anything. It's worth noting that I did end up throwing out about four potatoes because they were turning green from sun exposure. The shallow soil had allowed the potatoes to push up above the soil, and green potatoes are not edible. I will try to do better next year.
I have started a GoFundMe campaign to try to help pay for getting Luna and Gypsy and all the kittens spayed and neutered. I calculated it out and it's going to cost more than $2000 for just basic vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries for nine cats. That doesn't include the $64 per microchip, the $3 for worming medicine, the $5 collar, or the cost of food and litter. My thought is that if we can get them all spayed and neutered, even if we can't find them homes, we won't have to worry about having a ton more next spring. Don't get me wrong, kittens are fun, but we have more than enough as it is.
Last night I noticed that Amos was more lethargic than normal. When I picked him up he was dehydrated. His eyes were crusty, and when I went to clean him up he shied away from me. Now, he's never much cared for me messing with his eyes (he was born without eyes, so he can't see my hands, and I think it weirds him out), but he lets me clean him up usually. He wouldn't let me pull the crusty bits off his eyes. I pinned him down and tried to clean up one eye, but as I pulled some of the brown crusty stuff back, I noticed his eye socket was full of yucky stuff.
This morning he seemed a lot better. He'd cleaned himself up a bit, he had drank some and wasn't dehydrated anymore, but he wouldn't let me anywhere near his head. He didn't even want me to pet his cheeks or chin and would wince and shy away as though he was in pain. I called the vet and made an emergency appointment for later in the morning.
#4 and I walked to the vet with Amos in a carrier. I'm not sure what he thought of the trip. He was pretty quiet the whole time. When we got there he started purring. The vet took a good look at him, listened to his heart and lungs, checked his eyes, and his retained kitten teeth. She was going to prescribe the eye drops he had last time, but I told her we'd already tried them and they weren't helping. She gave us an ointment instead. Hopefully this will help him feel better soon. The vet did suggest possibly having the surgery I had wanted him to have originally. The one that would remove part of his inner eye and then sew the sockets shut to prevent future infections. That surgery does require general anesthesia though, so we plan to put him under one time and have both his eyes fixed and both of his retained baby teeth removed all in one go. It;ll be a rough time for him, but it will be better for him in the long run.
Amos' mom (Zombie) had a dental disease that caused her gums to literally eat away her teeth. We were looking at needing to pull all of her teeth before she passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I worry that Amos may have inherited this (as I believe that it can be genetic). This may just be the beginning of his dental adventures, but hopefully it will be the end of his eye troubles. I will have to call for a surgery appointment once his eye infection is under control. The good news is that he doesn't have a fever, so it's not a systemic infection yet! We caught it early! He should make a full recovery.
Unfortunately, I had to dip into my emergency money to pay for this vet bill. I hate using my emergency money, but Amos needed to see the vet. If anyone is interested in buying a rabbit to help cut my costs and put a little money back in the emergency fund, I'd really appreciate it. The visit today was $45, and the surgery will no doubt be a lot more expensive. I'm looking for more stuff I can potentially sell to try to make some money back, but I'm kind of lost on what I can sell... I'm not so great with advertising so I end up not selling as much as I probably could if I was more skilled in getting my stuff out there. Anyone have tips on good places to advertise or better ways to get more relevant audience views?
I finally finished the rainbow blanket project! I'm so excited! My sole complaint is that I didn't have an in-between color to transition the yellow to the green, and maybe the red to the orange, which makes the blue end a bit longer than the red end. Either way, I think it turned out pretty awesome. I transitioned from color to color in the center to give an added visual appeal. Each color stripe is about 7 inches wide. Of course #1 asked if she could have it. Shh, don't tell her but I'll probably end up keeping it in my cupboard until her birthday and giving it to her as a gift.
I made it outside today for a while. We haven't been able to find Tigerlily for a couple days. No sign of her, but Ditto and Carbon are still around. I've been locking them in the barn at night for their own safety.
I went to check on the St. Patrick Rose that I got from a mail order catalog this year. It's blooming!
The blueberry plant outside of the bathroom window in the little side garden is starting to ripen up. I snuck a few to taste and they're pretty good. I'm surprised at the amount the tiny plant produced, so I'm excited to see what it can produce when it's a full grown bush!
This evening #1 and I finished watching Stranger Things (season 1) on Netflix. It's hard to find time to watch together because #4 and #5 tend to get into trouble if they're not supervised, and #2 and #3 aren't always home to watch them. We managed to get time to watch the last episode of season one today when Tony got home from work and got the kids to bed.
Today I didn't finish cleaning out the brooder for the living room (I'm out of bedding), which leaves Morgana (gosling) and Ping (duckling) living in a cardboard box temporarily. As such I can't give them their regular water container because they spill - a lot. So tonight I put them in the bathtub and let them play in the water for a while. They seemed to enjoy it for the most part. Amos even climbed into the bathtub out of curiosity. He could hear them and smell them, so it was cute to watch him try to touch them. Amos is our blind kitten for those who don't remember.
For the record, I did bleach the tub out after their pool party to make sure it was clean for the next time the kids need to use it.
I think today is the first day in nearly a week that I haven't been completely sick or in pain all day. Not for lack of trying though. I was struggling all morning and all afternoon. I felt better around 7pm. I did manage to make dinner tonight (spaghetti) which is an accomplishment at this point. I also skipped the medicine (today) that's been escalating my pain in hopes of being able to be upright tomorrow for a scheduled appointment in the afternoon. We will have to see how it goes.
I found a pretty yarn I want to make a new blanket with. I figured if I used 3/4 of each skein and I used ten colors for the rainbow blanket, I should need about 8 skeins of yarn to make a blanket the same size if I use all of the yarn in each skein. Problem is I found it on Amazon and they only have one in stock. I will have to ask Tony about investing in them when they come in stock again... It's a pretty aqua and brown mix (variegated) yarn. The website says it should be back in stock August 1.
While out and about today I did find a couple tiny apples on the apple tree. I thought it hadn't flowered at all. After the bumper crops it has produced the past two summers, the three apples on there I found won't be enough to re-stock our apple butter stash this year. Alas, perhaps the poor gardening wasn't entirely my fault with all my ongoing issues, but perhaps a lot was the cold spring too.
In rabbit news, Hazel is spending a lot of time in her nest box, but isn't pulling fur yet. MooMoo is pulling fur, but no babies as of bedtime check. Fern is showing no signs of impending delivery. With all the ongoing issues I have not had the chance to breed any rabbits since the last time, so for now, no more anticipated litters in the barn for a while.
The colony rabbits do have another litter. I found two kits that look to be about two to two-and-a-half weeks old. They look weak and sickly. A chocolate brown and a red, both with a partial Dutch shoulder stripe. I always hope they make it, but this year has been brutal and these babies don't look well at all. I am not even going to post them on the rabbits page unless they survive long enough to be separated and moved over to the grow-out pen and survive for at least a week over there. Separating early seemed to have been the right move for Hoshi and Umeko, who were removed from the colony when they were about three to four weeks old. Crossing my fingers these little ones make it a little longer. They're still way too small to separate for right now. I suspect that Phoebe has a litter down the burrow hole. She's been coming and going from there a lot. Spot has recently lost some fur which is also a good indicator there are babies down there. The two in the building appear to be from MoR who pulled fur about three weeks ago.
I am still greatly struggling to be upright and functional. It's just past 10pm and I am finally sitting up in bed and able to type up this blog post.
I managed to get out of bed and out to the barn long enough to snap some photos two days ago. It took me two days to get time between pain bouts to get those photos posted... but there are updated photos on the Rabbits page for Gretchen's litter and Princess Poppy's litter, and on the Breeding Rabbits page for Boyce. Below is a photo of Gypsy's kittens. Left is Carbon (the only boy), middle is Ditto (Carbon's near identical sister), and right is Tigerlily (she has a pretty coat pattern and white feet).
This morning Carbon had a sore leg. He was fine my this evening. I wonder if he just got it caught in a bunny cage or maybe he got stepped on by a goose, or landed funny while playing in the barn. Either way, he's better now. Our middle child (#3) has a mild speech impediment and calls him Corbin instead of Carbon, so now I have inadvertently started calling him Corbin too, but his name is still officially Carbon Copy Cat. He is my favorite. He's playful and personable.
Ditto is less playful, at least with people. She plays well with sister Tigerlily. Tigerlily is a sweet girl, very photogenic. Most of the photos I took of Ditto she was not pleased to be photographed and reminded me of a reluctant celebrity.
Perhaps all that means is that Ditto will be a better barn cat and Tigerlily and Carbon will be better suited to life as a house pet. The kittens are seven weeks old now. In another week or so they should be ready to head off to new homes. I haven't advertised them yet, largely due to my other ongoing health problems.
Yesterday I was in the bathroom, I took the mirror down and the cats were very interested. Here is a photo of Floki and her three remaining babies. Yuri (aqua collar) will be staying here. Blue Star (purple collar) is set to leave to her new home on Sunday. Ginger Bear (no collar) is still waiting for his permanent home. Floki (leopard print collar) is the momma and is staying here.
We went to the vet on Tuesday and I have to say I'm disappointed. Blue Star and Ginger Bear got microchipped. I paid over $133 for this (why is it so expensive??). Then as soon as we got home both of the kids holding the cats handed me the microchips - they were in their fur and had not been implanted properly at all. We drove back to the vet and despite there being literally nobody there, they made me re-schedule for a Friday appointment to implant new microchips.
I used to microchip our own animals for the rescue I used to run. In all my years only once did we ever had a microchip not implant properly, and that's because the dog had particularly thin skin and the needle went in and back out again. In this case, neither cat had a puncture wound at all. They didn't even break the skin! Two mis-implanted chips at the same time? My husband wants me to call up the adopters of the other two kittens to ask them to have their cats scanned to see if their chips were properly implanted. I don't want to doubt their competency, but honestly, this is one more thing in an ever growing list of minor red flags over the years. I'm quickly losing faith in my regular vet and may soon seek care elsewhere. A shame really since we moved out here and are conveniently located near the clinic we have been using for several years. Back to the vet tomorrow I guess.
The little dutch harlequin bunny from the colony died. The kids went to dig up the burrow since we hadn't seen any babies for a while and found it had died in there, all alone. So sad. I'm hoping tomorrow will be a better day and I will be able to go out and patch up the ground fence to prevent the rabbits from burrowing there again. We've been losing a lot of babies since they started burrowing again. The nest boxes we can check on regularly in the building seem to secure better survival rates.
I also want to breed some more rabbits soon. I want to do a re-breed of Calliope to Mister Cellophane to see if we can get more of the pretty colors like Boyce. I need to rebreed Spotty because (no surprise) she didn't take... again. If she were my rabbit she'd be up for sale, but she's #4's rabbit and she doesn't want to part with her. I'm tempted to offer her a trade for a different breeder that will be more productive. I mean, wouldn't it be more fun to have a bunny that produces babies? Bacon once again failed to produce, so she will be officially up for sale just as soon as I can get an updated photo of her. If anyone wants an oversized chestnut lionhead doe that refuses to breed (may be spayed), please let me know!
I've been off for a while. I'm still struggling with pain levels. Yesterday I had a bout of crippling depression. Yes, I get emotionally attached to random things... inanimate objects, animals on the internet, and yes - celebrities who make me happy (they're not as common as you'd think). I suspect this is a side effect of having Asperger's. Yesterday morning one of my favorite actors passed away (Cameron Boyce) and I spent most of the day in tears. Yes, I realize it's not rational to be so distraught over a death that literally had nothing to do with me. Never met the guy, never planned to meet him, didn't know him personally, he was just a good guy that made me smile whenever I saw him on TV. Today my eyes are still swollen from ugly crying yesterday, but I do feel a little better. Emotionally anyway. My tummy and my throat still hurt today.
I recently got an account on TikTok (thatpetlady). I'm still trying to figure it out and I use it mostly for finding interesting videos, but this morning I did post a video of Amos purring.
I also recently joined Instagram. I had an account before that I never used, but when I re-downloaded the app on my phone I didn't remember my username or password... So I started a new account (that.pet.lady) and I posted a photo of Amos today.
Again, I'm not really sure what I'm doing on these new forums/platforms and I'm not sure if I will keep up with either of them.
Due to my delays in doing literally anything this past week, I didn't get the hatching incubator set up... I now have chicks hatching in the other incubator - with the egg turner still on. Yeah... So... As soon as they stop hatching and it looks like no other eggs are pipped, I'll take the chicks out to the barn brooder to join the three Dark Brahma chicks and the two other chicks from the last incubator hatch. These will be my last incubator hatched chicks for the year. There is one duck egg in there that's set to hatch next week, but I never bothered to candle or check any of these eggs... so who knows. As of last check it looks like there are five black chicks and two yellow chicks hatched and napping in there.
Tomorrow Ginger Bear and Blue Star have an appointment for their microchips. It sounds like Blue Star will be heading off to her new home on Sunday. Yay! I hope she does well off on her next adventure. The home sounds just perfect for her.
On Saturday I finally set up the sewing machine I got last year for my birthday. Part of me put it off because my mother in law was always the crafty one and the cutting board and roller tool that we presented to me at the same time kind of brought up some sadness and I just wasn't ready to take on the role yet. With a lot of help from #3 (she read the manual and got it all set up for me), I got through a couple different projects.
Project #1 - I took a shirt that was too small for #4, sewed the bottom together, cut and re-stitched part of the top, and made it into a cute little shopping bag.
Project #2 - Seeing what I did with the shirt, #3 brought me an old pair of jeans that didn't fir anymore. She just wanted the legs to make doll clothes from, so I cut the legs off, sewed the leg holes shut, and used a couple strips cut from the length of the pant leg to make a strap. Voila! Now it's a purse. I remember my mother making one when I was little - though she was never much of a crafter, I do recall her making a couple of this particular type of purse. I was much too small then to have helped, but I winged it and it turned out pretty nice.
Project #3 - Playing off the success of project #1 with the shirt, I took a dress that was too tight for #4 and I sewed the slip inside together at the bottom, then cut off the extra outer frill that hung down, leaving just enough to cover the slip. I used the part I cut off as a belt for it. Unfortunately, it doesn't look modified enough, so it literally just looks like a dress, while the other one is easier to recognize as a reusable bag. I think perhaps infant dresses would work better in the future than bigger sizes. I may end up giving this one to #4 and letting her use it for whatever. Might make an interesting overnight bag.
Project #4 - I used a scrap of pant leg in a rectangle, stuffed with scraps and a jingle bell, to make a cat toy. I gave it to the cats right away and it has already disappeared.
Project #5 - OK, so I didn't really use the sewing machine for this one, but #5 was sitting there with his Ninja Turtles figures and he asked if I could make them clothes. I took thick strips of fabric, cut a line in the middle and made little ponchos for the turtles. Some got belts to hold their ponchos and some didn't. Then #5 took a pair of scissors and cut some of them short in the front (to his liking). Still technically a project though... 100% scrap fabric from the pants!
I didn't take photos, but I'll try to remember to in the future. I kind of want to try more projects turning old clothes into bags. I took a shirt and made a pillow case a long time ago, but never found the proper stuffing to finish it. It's still in the closet. I wonder if I could find some stuffing if I stopped by a craft store...
I may have given the wrong impression, because Sunday night #5 came down the stairs (after bedtime) with the sleeve of his shirt in his hands. He'd used some scrap yarn to tie the wrist end shut and had stuffed the other sleeve (which he'd also cut off) in as stuffing and was asking for a jingle bell so he could make a cat toy too... I explained to him that we only use clothes that we can't wear anymore. Ones that are damaged or stained or otherwise not valuable enough to be passed on to someone else. We can't be cutting up the clothes we wear on a regular basis, and now he won't be able to wear one of his favorite shirts anymore... He was a little upset about that, but hey - a cat toy! Pretty awesome that he came up with the design on his own - it wasn't like the one I'd made. Way to be creative at five years old! This morning I helped him stuff it with a clean unpaired sock from the sock bag in the laundry cabinet. Ironically, the sock bag used to be a t-shirt that we made into a bag many years ago.
Looks like we're supposed to get rain tonight and tomorrow. It'll be nice to have a good storm. Might cool things down. It's been about 80-82 degrees in the house. Not bad under the ceiling fan, but it can get hot if we need to cook or work outside. Tony has assured me that tomorrow (his day off) he will muck the barn for me.
It looks like the weather has finally decided to warm up (we got to 83 degrees today). It's still getting cold at night, but alas, we've seen sunshine and the forecast looks lovely!
I had hoped to release the first of the spring chicks into the flock this weekend, but I've been asked to dog/house-sit for my parents while they're out of town this weekend. It'll have to wait until next week when I will be home to make sure they make it back into the barn every night until they know the rules.
I'm still hesitant to send the smallest of the chicks out to the barn brooder. Not just because the chicks out there are significantly larger, but due to the cold nights we're still having. I have to figure something out though because brooders in the house are nasty, even when they're cleaned every day! Next year will someone please remind me not to order chicks until June so they can go straight out to the barn brooder?
Nanny the duck continues to sit on the embden goose eggs. I'm not sure if the effort will be fruitful though. The egg we took from the nest is a dud - no development at all. While I'm certainly not outside monitoring the birds at all times, I have not seen any breeding behavior between Ryan (embden gander) and either of the ladies. A couple times we've seen Josh (African gander) attempting to breed with one of the embden ladies, but she doesn't seem interested in him. Here's hoping they're just being amorous when we're not looking. I don't even care if the resulting goslings are purebred embden or African / embden crosses. I think it would just be lots of fun to have baby geese again. They were fun, but they grow fast!
Calliope's remaining four babies are doing great. They're fat little ones. Both of the blacks turned out to be black otter (with the white in the ears and underbelly). The two whites started off white, then got grey ears, and now they're grey all over. I'm not sure what to make of it, but they're gorgeous! Still too little to get an accurate gender check yet, but it's going to be tempting to keep back one of those silver/grey babies if it's a doe. Not like I need any more rabbits of course. It should be interesting to see if they inherited momma's lop ears and dad's long fur.
I returned to my crochet blanket project this morning. It was cold and crocheting gave me an excuse to sit in bed for a while with a warm blanket and feel productive.
The tulips are finally blooming. They somehow managed to survive the ducks and chickens and geese all pecking at them when they first came up. We have pink and white tulips by the raised strawberry bed, and we have darker pink and yellow tulips by the half-finished herb garden. I know we planted some really dark ones too, and I hope they bloom soon, but they haven't yet.
Gypsy's kittens are doing well. There are three of them. Our first ever barn cats born here on the homestead. Two are mackerel tabbies, one boy and one girl, and the other is a classic (marble) tabby with white markings (girl). Unlike the sphynx kittens, we're not going to wait six months and have these ones fixed. They'll be ready for new homes at eight weeks old (July 18th). If they're still here at 12 weeks old (August 15th) I'll get them rabies vaccinations. They're sure to be well socialized. The kids love checking in on them. They're just starting to open their little eyes now. They're one week old today. No names have been chosen for them yet. I did suggest the mackerel tabby girl be called Ditto since she looks exactly like Gypsy - to which #3 suggested Carbon (AKA Carbon Copy Cat) for the boy, who also looks just like Gypsy. For now the kids are still trying to talk me into keeping a kitten. The answer is no. I had originally wanted three barn cats, but I wanted pretty colorful ones (calico colored). We do not need a second tabby barn cat.
It's almost June already and I keep having a bit of panic thinking I'm so behind on planting my garden. But the reality is that the weather just hasn't been cooperating. Even the commercial farmers have only just gotten their corn planted within the last week. Yes, I do need to get to work in the garden, but I refuse to feel bad for procrastinating when this time, it was out of my hands.
We had two chicks hatch this week. Unfortunately the French Black Copper Marans chick managed to drown itself in the waterer last night in the brooder. The other one is a pretty blue colored chick. I suspect it may be another of Blue's eggs (our splash cochin). There's something wrong with my hatching incubator. I think I may need to replace it already. It's getting hot to the touch above the heat unit on the lid, and it won't keep humidity in. I get it up to 60% and the next day it's down to 40%. My hatch rates have been dropping and eggs I candle that are alive and good don't hatch once they're put into the hatching incubator. I can't afford to go buy a new one right now though, so I'm not sure what to do. It might mean no more hatching for this year (one we get through what's already in the incubator). Perhaps I'll see if Tony has any ideas. He's more mechanically inclined than I am and could probably take a look and have a better idea of how to potentially correct the issue than I can. My biggest disappointment is that this week I had Betty White's egg in there, and it candled alive and moving before it went into the hatching incubator. It was not one that hatched, and I am greatly disappointed and saddened.
Before it got too terribly hot today, my dear husband and little #5 assembled our new greenhouse. My mom found it at a moving sale for $75. It's six feet wide, eight feet long, and six and a half feet tall.
Of course, when it was all assembled we had to bring most of the plants from the basement garden out to the greenhouse! We now have strawberries, grapes, blueberries, aronia, gooseberry, mint, oregano, tomatoes, and some very leggy hens and chicks in the greenhouse. Plenty of space for more! I hope it doesn't just cook everything with the temperatures being so high. I opened the windows, but had to close the door to keep the birds out while we were gone. I think I should get a thermometer for in there.
We went back to the old house today. It's likely the second-to-last time we will go there (just need to go back with a trailer for some bigger stuff). While Tony and #2 and #3 worked on tearing down the auto-shelter frame, I dug up some plants to bring home. I took one raspberry plant, one patch of irises, and six strawberry plants.
The raspberry plants from that particular garden are a natural seed cross of the black raspberries we had at the old house, but they are red and they are incredibly sweet, but also very seedy. I had brought some with when we moved, but at the time I didn't know that only black raspberries can tolerate being near black walnut trees. I transplanted all the raspberries in a row between black walnut trees. Only a few came back last summer, and only two are coming up now. I suspect our days of bumper crops are over for a while. So I dug up one plant and we planted it out on the peninsula. It will get full sun with afternoon shade from the tree it's near, and it's in an area where it can kind of go to town and spread a little so we might be able to harvest more. I also tucked it away behind the normal walking area so it's less likely to be bothered by our geese and ducks while they go down there to play in the water.
The patch of irises is a guess. Several years ago I bartered some seeds for some root beer irises. They are the most phenomenal flower. They actually smell just like root beer! I love them. Unfortunately, when we moved, I dug up everything I could find and split them. Half I gave to the local greenhouse, and the other half I brought to the new house. Unfortunately I had so much to do that I never got to transplanting them, and they didn't survive over wintering in a bucket. Entirely my own fault. So when I saw them in the garden, I dug them up. We did have other irises in the garden, but I'm crossing my fingers and really hoping that these are my beloved root beer irises and that I just missed them last time. I planted them out on the west side of the raised strawberry bed, so it will get full afternoon and evening sun. We (#3 and I) even took time to separate the roots out to give them better growing conditions, and then mulched the little make-shift space to try to give them a head start against the grass.
The strawberries were originally from the USDA. They're called Beaver Early. I planted them several years ago and they quickly propagated themselves throughout the old garden. When we left, I dug up all I could find, but like the irises, I didn't get to planting them in time, and they all died. I dug up six, which was all I could find in the overgrown old garden at the old house. It's a good variety, quick to come up, grows even when grass overtakes it, throws out beautiful, albeit bland strawberries, and then goes to town putting out runners and taking over more space. Just what I want in my strawberry bed! Well, except maybe the bland flavor - but Tony says that could have more to do with soil type and watering, and lack of sun through all the raspberry plants and grass around it. Perhaps they will do better in the raised strawberry bed. I planted them around the Quinault strawberry - the only one to come back from last year's 50+ we planted.
We stopped at Menards to pick up some stakes and a rubber mallet to stake the new greenhouse properly. We ended up picking up a hosta and #3 picked out a new container of hen and chicks while we were there. We stopped by the feed store and ended up bringing home a little piglet yard statue. It was just too cute to pass up. I put it in the front yard under the big shade tree, in the little bushy part off to the side, so it will look like the little piggy is hiding - and hopefully will deter the dogs and birds from bothering it. When I first sat it down in the yard #4 (who wasn't with us when we bought it) asked if it was a real pig.
My apologies for the lack of a blog the last half of this week. We've been busy, and I haven't had time to sit down on the computer to type anything up.
Thursday we took a family trip to the Science Museum of Minnesota. I had emailed earlier this week asking if someone there might be able to email me some information on taxidermy, because I have a weird phobia of taxidermy animals. Perhaps having some more information would help keep my brain busy thinking instead of panicking when I saw the big bears (or the birds hung overhead). Much to my surprise and delight (and a little bit of terror), I got an email back from Dick O., the biological collections manager. He was intrigued with my fear of "objects that can not harm you" and offered to give me a brief behind the scenes peek into the biology portion of the museum.
I have to say a big thank you to Mr O. for being patient with me and explaining things, answering questions, and taking time out of his day to show me around. I took #1 and #2 with me (they wanted to come for this rather than explore the museum with Dad and the younger kids). We got to see a taxidermy baby penguin, lots of native birds, small and large, we saw mice and reptiles stored in jars of alcohol, dried plants from not far from our own home, fossils, butterflies, insects, an elephant skeleton, a tiger's skull, a taxidermy rhinoceros head (terrifying), and we got a glimpse of some artifact items (pottery and such) as we were walking too. It was really an amazing opportunity. He showed us a golden eagle, and a bald eagle, and discussed the difference between them. He showed us hawks and discussed their hunting tactics. We learned that the butterflies are not actually blue, but iridescent and we just perceive them as blue. The native birds here also have no blue pigment - it's just how we perceive them with the refraction of light. Isn't that awesome?
Armed with this pre-adventure and some new information, I made it a point to go and visit every taxidermy animal I could find. The exhibit of a lake shore scene with birds, turtles, fish, and a porcupine up in a tree - no issues. The big white birds (are those Trumpeter Swans? They look too small to be Trumpeters) scared me - I didn't want to walk under them... But I did. Twice! I got right up to the glass where Kuma, the zoo polar bear is on display and while I wasn't comfortable, I wasn't terrified either. They had moved Don the gorilla to sit beside Kuma (he wasn't there on Sunday when I'd been there before). I thought he'd be scarier. I had looked up information about him before coming to the museum, and the tour had included viewing the plaster cast of his face before they skinned him (so they could make him look more lifelike with the taxidermy mount). I didn't get right up to the glass, but I was closer to him than I thought I'd get. I was close enough to notice that the insides of his elbows were mostly hairless. I don't know if this is how all gorillas are, or if it's a side effect of his particular taxidermy journey taking several years and his fur falling out during that process. We went to visit the male polar bear, and he is still scary enough to keep me well away. I even had #1 go over and read his placard to see if that might helm me, but no... that bear is just plain terrifying. Try as I might, I couldn't get near him. Not to give up, we went and found the big brown bear that had scared me last Sunday too. I kept reminding myself - he's just an item. He's just a decoration.. like a piece of art or furniture... And wouldn't you know it, once my kids got me past him (there's an elephant skull hanging behind him, some birds in a glass display case, and a window to see the dermestid beetles at work cleaning bones), he wasn't nearly as scary. I still didn't want to go right up to him, but the blind terror was only when viewing him from an angle near the front. I ended up laughing walking away from him because his eyes are very close together, which gives an awkward appearance - aggressive from the stance and the open mouth and teeth, but somewhat bewildered with the close-set eyes. We visited the male polar bear one more time, and I still couldn't manage to get near him. I still count this one as a win though, because I've never gotten so close to taxidermy without a complete meltdown before - and I didn't even have nightmares about it!
We also explored the dinosaur exhibit, the sports exhibit, the gaming exhibit, the body exhibit, we saw a mummy, went through the Native American exhibit where we saw a bison skeleton, learned about weaving using little bits of wool, and got to see jingle dressed up close. We went to the Omnitheater National Parks presentation. At the end of the day, aside from food places and a couple live shows that weren't open when we went by them, we had pretty much explored the entire museum. There were two exhibits we somewhat skipped over - the medical devices (lots of reading, I saw it Sunday and kids weren't interested) and the hands-on stuff outside of the dinosaur area (kids were hungry and wanted to find food by then). All said and done we stayed for seven hours with no food breaks. We arrived just before noon and decided to check out the gift shop just after 7pm. Each of the kids picked something from the gift shop to bring home. #1 picked a lined note book to write in, #2 picked a shirt with minerals on it, #3 picked out a ring and some rocks, #4 picked out rocks and then used her own money to buy some suckers with bugs in them, and #5 picked out a backpack (really expensive but he's excited to go to school this fall, so this will be his school bag). I bought a deck of cards with native fruits and berries on them. I figure it might be a good way to help me identify some plants here.
Friday I transplanted the bare-root strawberry plants that came in the mail. I had ordered them last year and received dried up dead roots. I followed their instructions and planted them and waited, but nothing ever came up. When I went to dig them back up to plant something else in their place, some were entirely rotted away, and some still had desiccated dried up roots, but no signs of growth. The trees they sent were similarly dead - no roots, just a cutting that never grew. I followed the instructions to get a replacement (one year guarantee), and never heard back from them. Then I got a shipping notification. I figured they'd sent the replacement order. Nope, just the strawberry plants... but at least this time they had some green! So I got them put into soil in cups indoors right away to make sure they had the best chance (it's still too cold outside to put them in the garden). Some of the plants looked like they had mold on them (fuzzy and white on the green growth portions), and most of them were already starting to rot (black and squishy just above the crown making the green growth above it die). Since planting them into cups, almost all of them look pretty rough. All of them with the black rot are dying back. I'm hoping it's just from being in the plastic shipping bag and the long journey (seriously, over a week in the mail - FedEx surely you can do better). I'm excited to move them outside when the weather warms up in a couple more weeks (I hope).
Today I spent most of my day cleaning, but we all played outside for a while. It was 65 degrees today and warm enough to go out without a coat on. The kids gathered sticks and played a game, I sorted through the old bird cages to see what all matched up and what I could use for scrap. I found a bunch of wood that would look really neat in a reptile tank. #2 figured out how to open the metal door to the cistern, so we peeked in there (but did not go in). The kids and I caught Sherlock and loved on him for a while before letting him go again.
Today I also discovered that we do, indeed, have baby bunnies. And not just a couple either. I counted at least 12 in the colony, and they're all about 3-4 weeks old based on their size. The kids caught a few and we handled them. Cute little things. Three tans, two blacks, and lots of broken patterned bunnies. They caught one that had an odd rex coat. Not plush and full, but wavy and soft just the same. Another they caught had the crimp and the softness, but the fur was longer. And one of the tan babies is fluffy - and adorable. I wish I'd have taken photos, but I didn't have my camera on me at the time. I think we will wait until they're a little bigger to round them up and take photos and do gender checks.
My parents stopped by today to bring over the big outdoor cage that came with Hazel. Hazel has already been transitioned to a smaller cage, so she won't be going back to that one. We do plan on using it as a grow-out pen for the bunnies. It will allow them a lot more space than our other cages. The only down sides are that it's big enough to be difficult to reach them if they're not tame, and the hardware cloth it's made from is too small to let poop through so it has to be scooped out regularly. It will not be suitable for winter housing as everything would freeze on (we don't have a heated barn) and prevent proper cleaning.
Taking advantage of the warm day, #3 went out and sprinkled about a dozen packets of mixed flower seeds all over the septic mound. We can't grow anything edible up there, and it has to be something that will be self sustaining, as we really don't want to be walking up there at all. Why waste it with grass? Make it a mound of flowers to feed our pollinators! She also took four packets of Hungarian Blue Birdseed Poppy seeds and sprinkled them along the far edge of the driveway where our driveway meets the road. With any luck it will make a pretty patch of flowers that will make the walk to the mail box every day that much more enjoyable.
And how could I forget!? The chicks arrived this week! Our first order of the year, we ordered 15 assorted rare breed chicks from Cackle Hatchery. They sent 18, but we lost one. His head feathers were stuck to the address label through the top air hole. I don't know how long he'd been like that. He was alive when he arrived, but he was clearly exhausted. He spent all day sleeping, and passed away that evening before bed time. Poor thing. The remaining 17 chicks look good. It looks like we have three Polish, three Golden Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben, two Silver Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben, four cochin (a buff, a splash, a red laced, and another one I'm not sure on), a Lakenvelder, two tiny grey chipmunk chicks, and a standard chipmunk marked, and I'm forgetting one... It's a nice assortment though. The Polish ones are for sale if anyone is interested. Looks like we have a Golden Laced, a White Crested Black, and the last one is probably a white (though it could be blue or splash, I can't tell for sure).
We're supposed to get our second order of chicks (from a different company) in another week and a half or two weeks (hatch date 5/15, anticipated arrival 5/17).
Last, but not least, we have more eggs in the hatching incubator anticipated to hatch early next week. Two duck eggs (our first of the season), and 13 chicken eggs (one blue cochin, one Columbian Wyandotte, two Easter Egger, and nine of the darkest marans eggs from our ladies). Here's to a good hatch next week!
Easter eggs are boiled and dyed. Each child got one dozen eggs to color, and this is what they came up with.
We just used two of the traditional dye kits (pellet in vinegar water) this year. Nobody complained. It helped that I did the dying in waves. First the younger three got to dye theirs, then the older two came to the table and did theirs. Then the younger ones got the opportunity to re-dye their eggs in a second color if they wanted, followed by the older kids getting to re-dye. Much smoother experience with less bickering.
We used a mix of chicken and duck eggs (what a great excuse to use up the older eggs). I love that the subtle differences in the brown eggs made the same dye color each egg differently. The lighter brown eggs turned gold in the yellow dye.
Some of the kids are excited for the egg hunt on Sunday - some are more excited for Grandpa to turn their eggs into deviled eggs afterwards.
The school district did cancel school today. They didn't have to. It didn't even really start to snow here until nearly 3:30 and even then it wasn't bad. It's been pretty steady since then, so it's starting to accumulate now. The school has already called for a two hour late start tomorrow. I can understand this because it's going to take a while to plow it all and it's still falling.
Today a couple of the birds braved to cold winds and blowing snow, but most of them just stayed in the barn. I can't blame them.
While collecting eggs today (20 chicken eggs and 3 duck eggs) I found a nest stashed behind the old brooder that the kids had been missing. An additional 10 chicken eggs and 15 duck eggs were recovered. That makes today's egg total 30 chicken eggs and 18 duck eggs. The old nest ones will be float tested before they go into the kitchen and because we don't know how old they might be they will not be included in our hatching eggs that we offer for sale.
Taking advantage of the snow day, I decided today I wanted to get on my winter sowing. I'm slowly running out of time to get it done. I've never put it off this long before. We made a little mini chain of stations and got to work. Little #5 pulled the containers out from where they were stashed and handed them to #4. #4 peeled off any labels and removed lids before handing them off to me. I'd drill all the drainage holes in the bottom and then hand them off to #1. #1 had a litter pan with bleach water and sanitized each container before handing them off to #3. #3 cut each container almost in half with a little hinge left so it could be closed once it's planted. And when we were all done, we worked together to put all of the sanitized, cut, drilled, and ready-to-plant containers back into the stash area.
I'm hoping to start winter sowing tomorrow. Now it's just the easy parts - Label the containers, write out labels for inside the containers, add soil, add seeds, close with duct tape, photograph, and put outside. Since I've already pulled a lot of seeds (from the collection) that I want to work with this year, it's just a matter of labeling and planting really. I'm hoping I have enough containers. I think my seed selections may still be overly ambitious for the space I have, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway.
I moved all of the 4/14 hatching eggs to the hatching incubator. I'm trying something new this time. I saw on one of my hatching groups that you can use the mesh onion/garlic bags to differentiate eggs. I put all six of my blue eggs in one, all four of my dark brown eggs in another, and then left the thirteen regular brown eggs on the incubator floor as I normally would.
Because our two breeding roosters are a French Black Copper Marans (Doodle) and an Easter Egger cross (Sherlock), the blue and dark brown eggs each have a 50/50 chance of producing chicks that will either go on to lay eggs of the same color, or be f1 olive eggers. If we keep them back for our own flock, next year we can hatch out green eggs and have a chance at getting f2 olive eggers. When you breed f1 and f2 olive eggers you get a rainbow of color possibilities as far as egg production goes. I would love to have a rainbow collection of eggs every day. This plan is still three years in the making, but I think it's great that we already have the genetic base to make our own rainbow egg flock in just a few years with selective breeding.
New eggs will go into the incubator on Sunday. I'm planning to set some duck eggs and some more chicken eggs too.
In sad news, today #3 informed me that the colony litter has been destroyed. The rabbits attacked their own nest and killed all of the babies. I'm heartbroken. I'm defeated. It's been over seven months since we've had a successful litter. The rabbits that should have had litters 4/9 are showing no signs of nesting. I'm about to give up and sell out. I'm spending around $130-$150 a month on food to keep these rabbits, and we're not getting any return. I think it's time to downsize.
If anyone is looking for rabbits, let me know. They're almost all proven breeders, I just can't get them to lift or participate lately. Hurry before I change my mind...
Today I found an ad from someone giving away a female Pekin duck. We have one Pekin duck, Gracie, that we got last fall. She flocks with Raisin and Phyllis, who came from the same place. I'd love to have another white duck. Long story short, tomorrow after work, Tony will be picking up a new duck for our homestead. No guarantees the new girl will flock with this group, but I'm sure she will find a welcome reception somewhere.
We also have other little micro-flocks within the big flock. Helvegan (Khaki Campbell cross drake) flocks with Dashi (Rouen hen) and Matt (Rouen cross hen). Sexy Duck (Khaki / Rouen cross drake) flocks with Nanny (Rouen cross hen) and Happy Feet (Rouen cross hen). Having these natural mini flocks seems to make the drakes more peaceful.
Today I went to get the mail and saw the first robin of the year. I decided to look at some of the fruit trees while I was out that way. I ended up wandering through the woods exploring areas I hadn't seen yet. I found a rotten old pillow covered in moss, a pitch-covered stump, and some interesting looking trees.
When I came back to the house I picked up the metal detector and #3, #4, and #5 came out with me to explore the interesting things I'd found on my walk. We ended up metal detecting in the yard because there's not much to find out in the woods. We found a rusted nut, and one other spot pinged but the ground was too frozen to dig.
The check from the exotic auction arrived today. Sold a dozen hatching eggs for $3. Auction house took a dollar, I made $2. Never again. Hatching eggs are worth so much more. And if I can't sell them for hatching, we'll just eat them ourselves. It costs too much to raise these birds to give the eggs away for commercial egg prices.
I noticed a couple of the cats have diarrhea today. I'm not sure if they got a hold of the last bowl of Henry's special soft food, or if they're sick from eating the chick yesterday, or if maybe they got into something else. I'm keeping them all locked up in one room for the next few days to see if it's just something they got into and they'll get better or if they might have whatever Henry had. I don't want this to become a nightmare situation. I hope the U of M can figure out what was going on with Henry so we have an idea if it's contagious and if it is, how to treat it. None of the other cats had diarrhea until today, and Henry had been sick for six months. Hoping for the best, but worrying about the worst.
We are up to five chicks in the brooder now! The fourth one still isn't walking properly, and the fifth one that hatched this morning is missing most of the feathers on its back (from hatching - it looked like that when I moved it from the incubator - where it was alone - to the brooder).
I had every intention of cleaning out the hatching incubator tonight after dinner, but my kids had other plans. Apparently, when I was out doing barn chores today, #5 decided to play in the bathroom. None of the other kids in the house noticed he was in there. As dinner comes to a close and #2 heads to the bathroom to pee, he comes back out and drops the bombshell of the night... #5 has destroyed the bathroom. He made a concoction of lotion, soap, shampoo, body wash, hydrogen peroxide, and possibly toothpaste... Then he put it in the sink, in the toilet, in the shower, in the litter box, all over the cat tree, in the fish tank, over the *entire* floor, in the cat water and (full) food dish - which then overflowed sopping expanded kibbles all over the base of the cat tree, making a soupy mess over the entire thing. After almost two hours of mopping and sweeping and scooping and scraping and vacuuming and even blow-drying, we got most of it cleaned up. It's now past midnight as I write this. Tomorrow I will finish the bathroom. The toilet and sink are clean, the cat tree has been vacuumed and set down sideways on the floor to let the base dry, I got as much out of the fish tank as I could, one of the litter boxes has been scooped, and half of the floor has been mopped (the other half has been cleaned up and dried but not re-mopped). Everything (except the carpeted cat tree) is at least dry now.
I will have to clean out the incubator tomorrow morning so I can put the new egg in. The one egg that's set to hatch on Wednesday. Still scratching my head on why I only set one egg for that day. Anyway, tomorrow all of the eggs we've been collecting for the past week will go in to the incubator to hatch the week before Easter. Leap of faith here that I'll be able to sell them.
I heard back from the other breeder that has Celery today. She's still not had any success pairing Celery to her doe. Both are inexperienced and under a year old. She's trying swapping their cages for a bit to see if it helps. We're both really hoping for a litter from this pairing. Hers is a gorgeous solid blue and Celery is a broken something - we thought black at first but as he's been groomed out he's looking more like a broken blue. Either way, it'd be a shame to have to breed her gorgeous doe to Mister Cellophane instead (he's some kind of chocolate or sable or something). We're both crossing out fingers that her doe will life and my buck will do his job and make some pretty babies!
We got six more eggs from the chickens today. I'm not sure if any eggs from tomorrow's collection will be able to go into the incubator, as it's cold outside and it takes time for the eggs to warm up to room temperature when they come in.
In potentially awesome news, this evening when I fed the colony rabbits (because I'd forgotten them this afternoon), #4 was helping me and she took a peek in their preferred nesting area. Sure enough, there was fur. Closer inspection saw wiggling little babies. I did not disturb the nest or get close enough to count. This is the first confirmed litter in the colony since we swapped bucks last fall. Skittles is officially a proven breeder now! As for the babies, I hope that the colony rabbits protect them and that the barn cats stay out. I have a sneaking suspicion that Luna, our white barn cat, may have been sneaking in to the barn and snacking on baby bunnies, since we hadn't had any litters yet but we've seen fur pulling here and there for about a month now. I made sure we fed the cats extra tonight (we usually feed them in the morning) in hopes of keeping them away from the colony. Crossing fingers this litter survives, since we're not having the best of luck breeding our cages rabbits at this point. With a 3/23/19 birthday, if they make it, baby bunnies could be ready as soon as May 4th (Star Wars Day).
I screwed up with the eggs in the hatching incubator. No pipping, no movement, and I swear the little birds inside looked way too small to be this close to hatching when I candled them last. I went back and checked my dates in the blog. I set them February 26th. That means hatch date should have been March 19th, not March 16th. March 16th should have been the date they got put into the hatching incubator. Now they've been in the other incubator for several days without being turned. It appears my only option at this point is to leave them set and see what happens. Best case scenario, we get some chicks next Tuesday. Worst case scenario, we lose the entire group and hope for better results with the next eggs that will be moving to the hatching incubator on Tuesday (bad timing). Lesson learned. Check and double check dates, and don't calculate dates when you're sleep deprived!
This morning we got a call from #4. Her first ever sleep over went so well, she was invited to stay another night! Awesome!
I did get some more winter sowing done today. Seven more jugs out the door!
The first batch I did were the asparagus and rhubarb varieties. Oddly enough I did two of each despite having three of each variety that I wanted to winter sow. I may just skip the third variety of rhubarb, but I do plan to winter sow the new asparagus variety that should be coming this week from Baker Creek. Anyway, here's what I got done today:
Mary Washington Asparagus - I got these seeds in a swap, but the packet originated from MIGardener. There were a surprising amount of seeds in the packet considering the packets sell for 99-cents and it had already been opened and partially used. I planted liberally, because I do want several large patches of asparagus in the future.
Asperges D'Argenteuil Asparagus - I bought these seeds from Le Jardin du Gourmet (Artistic Gardens) for 40-cents (sample pack). There were 12 seeds (much better than the 3-5 they advertised). I planted them all.
Matt's Rhubarb - A family friend moved to a new home and there was a massive rhubarb patch. My mother described it as the largest rhubarb she's ever seen in her life. The family friend, not a gardener, said he planned to rip it all out. My mom snagged a couple of seed stems (with permission) and brought them to me. The seeds are more than double the size of my Victoria and Glaskins Perpetual seeds. I planted this variety last year side by side with Victoria to see the difference, and while they germinated well, as soon as I opened the containers in the spring, my birds thought they were quite delicious and ate them all! So I'm trying again this year and I will be more careful to keep the birds away if at all possible.
Victoria Rhubarb - A few years ago we bought Victoria rhubarb rhizomes and planted them. These seeds came from those plants back in 2017. We did dig them up and bring them with to the new house, but again, the birds seem to think rhubarb is the best treat, and I don't think they survived the summer enough to come back this year.
In the second batch of winter sowing containers, I planted:
Goji berry (Wolfberry / Barbary) - I bought these seeds on eBay from overseas. I had bought some before and they had germinated, but then I didn't get it transplanted and it died in the winter sown container (entirely my fault). I'm trying this variety again now that we have plenty of space to just plunk it in the ground somewhere (we can dig it up and move it later if needed).
Black Elderberry - I bought these seeds from a US seller on eBay. I honestly don't know what to expect. Of all the other berry and tree seeds I bought at the same time from the same vendor, I have yet to see a single germination. I sowed liberally in case the problem in just low germination.
Apples - Again, yes, I'm planting apples from seed. The seeds in my little glass jar in the fridge are from our own apples as well as from store-bought named varieties. They're all mixed together, so I have no idea what we will get. It's exciting to try though, and it's not a waste to me. I have the space, and we have started fruit trees for production before these will be big enough to actually fruit. If they end up being bad flavored or too small or something, I can always cut them down and use the downed tree to make apple wood sticks, which bunnies love to nibble on. Either way, virtually no cost to start, and maybe we'll get some really tasty variety. After all, McIntosh apples were a seed-grown variety that has now been cloned (through cuttings, not laboratory GMO) for mass production.
The kittens are 14 weeks old (except Amos, he'll be 14 weeks on Tuesday). I realized I haven't been posting very many photos of the babies lately, so I snapped a few good ones today.
Above is Ginger Bear, the only orange marked kitten (except Amos who is a flame-point). He has strange eyes that we can't quite figure out. I think they're copper because they almost match his orange fur, but #3 insists they're more green. They are not blue like his siblings'. Ginger Bear is the biggest of the kittens, he explores and plays hard. He has been known to meow for attention and today he answered #3 talking to him with a meow (adorable). He is a bit of a scalawag. He tries to jump into my pants every time I go to use the bathroom, then he sits inside my pant legs and tries to play with his siblings through my jeans. Strange hobby Ginger Bear...
Below is Butter Beer. She's a petite girl, but full of mischief. She's the usual suspect trying to play with Ginger Bear while he's stuffed himself down a pant leg. Butter Beer has gorgeous blue eyes and that little blue snip over her nose. At first I'd say Butter Beer is quiet. She's a thinker. I've watched her study things and seem to calculate before acting. But she's also playful, typically more toward the other kittens than with us. She's also the most likely to climb your pants and demand attention. She is the first of the kittens to discover how to get up to the windows to look outside. She's very bright. I see a lot of potential in her. She will make someone a very nice companion.
Ginger Bear and Butter Beer, as well as brother Cloud and sister Blue Star will all be available for adoption in June when they're old enough to be spayed and neutered before they leave. They've already had de-wormer and first set of vaccines. By June they should be set for their first year with vet care (three rounds of PRC plus rabies vaccination). These babies are sphynx cross. Mom is hairless, and dad is half hairless, half Siamese cross. All available kittens have fur and do shed.
If anyone is interested in adopting a kitten, please let me know. They will be spayed/neutered, current on vaccines, micro-chipped, litter box trained, and well socialized with kids before they leave. They will go to their new homes with a return contract (they must come back to us if their selected new home cannot keep them or no longer wants them - for their entire life, no explanation needed, no refunds). They will also have collars by then. Adoption fee for these babies will be $250 each. I'm starting to screen people now, and will accept a (non-refundable) $100 deposit if we find a good match. Deposits go toward paying for vet care and are meant to show that someone is serious about waiting until the kittens are ready to leave. Please be completely sure (check with roommates, spouses, or significant others, check with your landlord, etc.) before you place a deposit. The remaining $150 will be due at time of pick up. All profits from kitten sales will go toward getting some of our other cats spayed and neutered.
I finished the crochet sling project this morning. I tested it out and it seems to work well as long as I'm sitting down. I'm not sure how to make it loop down more in the middle to better support him when I'm standing, or if it's just that he's small and squirmy. Either way, I love how it turned out and I look forward to using it to spend more snuggle time with my little baby Amos.
I finally got my hands in the dirt today. I only got four containers done and out the door, but I have seven more labeled and ready to go the next time I ave some spare time. Today I planted two cherry varieties (trees) and two grape varieties. I'm using deeper soil this year in an attempt to keep moisture retained a little better. I have also cut a lot fewer drainage holes in the bottoms. I hope this doesn't come back to bite me in the butt so to speak.. Here's what I planted today:
Concord Grape - I got these seeds from an online auction from someone in the US. I planted some last year but none came up. I had them in a shallow container last year and I think it just dried out too much. I want to give this variety another chance. I know, Concord grapes should be easy enough to find in a nursery - why start them from seed? Well, because if I can start it from seed for next to no cost, why spend $20-$30 on a start? I did sow liberally in this container.
Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) - I have tried these seeds before with no luck, but I'm giving them another try. I bought them from a US seller on eBay. I'd like to have some cherry trees to go in the orchard, and if I can start them cheaper, I think it's worth the wait a few extra years to grow it out and know I did it myself.
Carol's Grapes - Last year my mom sent me home from her house with a bag of tiny grapes that my aunt had given her. They seem to grow wild at her place, and she decided to share them. They're small, no bigger around than the nail on my pointer finger. Unfortunately, by the time I got them home and tried them, they were already starting to ferment. I ate a few of the good ones and dug the seeds out of the vine-dried ones. It has a pleasant sweet flavor, but without the astringent part you get with most purple grapes (at least the store bought ones that I've had access to). Each grape had 3-4 fairly large seeds. I've decided if they can grow wild there, they could grow wild here. I could plant them literally anywhere off the beaten path and let them do their thing. My aunt does not trellis, fertilize, or baby these, they just grow. I wouldn't mind easy, maintenance free food. I sowed liberally because last year I didn't have much luck with the Concord seeds and I wonder if grapes may be harder to germinate.
Sand Cherry - One day visiting my mom last summer, she had a small bag of cherries on her counter. A co-worker or a friend had given them to her calling them "sand cherries" and they were delicious. Unfortunately, I only managed to snag nine before my mom dropped them in the pot to make jelly. Of the nine seeds saved, I planted five in this container. I would be delighted if these came up because the cherries were really tasty. If I recall properly they had more juice and smaller pit-to-cherry ratio than the Nanking cherries we have in the yard.
Tonight is very quiet. I'm down to just one child in the house for the first time in quite a while. Tonight all four older kids are sleeping over at other places. The big deal here? Well, tonight happens to be the very first time #4 has ever has a sleepover with a friend. Ever. She's nine. She's had one play date where she went over to a neighbor's house for a couple hours while I was working in the yard and then she walked the two houses down to come home. She rarely gets invited to anything, and while she is excited to have friends at school, that has not equated to invitations to birthday parties or sleepovers. Until now. She was so excited, I've never seen her so happy. I told her she could call home for a ride if she wanted to come home - no shame, and I'd drop everything, even in the middle of the night to come get her if she called. I don't think she'll call, but I want her to know we're here if she is uncomfortable, gets sick, has a meltdown, or just doesn't want to be there anymore. It's a big deal - her first sleep over!
How did we celebrate being nearly kid-free? Tony, #5, and I ate Burger King, which Tony picked up on his way home from dropping #4 off. Then we decided to go to Dairy Queen for dessert. My mistake. I've eaten there a few times, and as long as I take double lactose pills, plus food pills, plus probiotics, I haven't gotten sick yet. Yesterday I got really sick because I ate three chocolate chip cookies without taking pills. I should have known it would throw my tummy off, but I went and ate anyway. A couple hours later I was in severe pain. I took ibuprofen and took a long hot shower. The pain meds have kicked in now, but now it's late at night. Tony has gone to bed without me, and here I sit, alone at the kitchen table, typing up a blog.
Did I mention it's really quiet? No fighting at bedtime, no 25 trips to the bathroom to try to stay up a little later, no snoring, no coughing, no giggling from watching YouTube or reading a fanfic in bed... Just, quiet. I can hear the computer fan hum, I can hear the incubator egg turner engine running, the ticking of my keys is really the only thing that breaks the silence right now. I must admit, it's something I could enjoy from time to time. I know it's a rarity now, which is why it's so great. I'm sure the novelty will wear off next year when #5 starts going to school with the other kids, and I'm left alone all day.
This is something I actually have anxiety about. Surely I'm not the only parent of a large family dealing with this transition. I have always been "Mom." I never had an adult life without my kids - My husband and I married before we graduated high school, and our oldest daughter was born when we were both 18 years old. I have literally spent the last 17+ years being a mom. And yes, I'll still be a mom, but when your whole identity is "stay at home mom" - what happens when all the kids go to school? Then what? What am I during the day? I'll have nobody at home to "mom" anymore.
Part of me is excited to have so much time to myself. I can finally get caught up on house chores. I can have quiet time to do some hobbies. Maybe I'll take up new hobbies. I will be able to go do barn chores, take a shower, and use the toilet without a little one asking me what I'm doing, how much longer I'll be, and needing help with something. A little bit of me worries I may spoil myself with all the quiet time. I mean, will I like my kids less when they come home and the whole house becomes a circus again? Or will it allow me to have reset time while they're gone so I can be a better parent when they come home at the end of the school day?
Then the anxiety kicks in. Thanks Asperger's and overthinking everything. How many kindergartners are killed by school buses every year? How often are children sexually assaulted by other students while riding the school bus? My kids never said naughty words until they rode the bus and were exposed to them by other kids. My son is five and he's my last baby - will sending him to school and exposing him to other peoples' kids mean the end of Easter and Christmas traditions? School shootings are a very real thing these days. My nephew's school was shut down last year due to a credible threat of an active shooter (who was caught and arrested off school property before he could carry out his plan), and the local school has already had at least one "soft lock down" when someone made a verbal threat to staff members. Part of me wants to online school #5, just to avoid sending him into the public school system. I want more time with him, I don't know that he's psychologically ready for what comes with school. Early mornings, constant social interaction, the inability to have quiet time when he reaches meltdown, having strict rules and timelines, having to sit and focus on something he may not be interested in, figuring out which bus(es) he needs to be on to get to and from school, and all the new rules. He wants to go to school. He is excited to make new friends, and he has asked me (more than once) if we can do school shopping now so he can be prepared for going this fall. I want to keep him, just a little longer, but I know he also needs room to grow, and while I can offer him love and freedom, I can't offer him socialization and friendship with kids his age here. I have been fighting with myself for the last year or two about doing online schooling with him, but am I letting my anxiety win then? Would that rob him of the experience and the friendships he could be making in a school setting? For now the best compromise I can come up with is to discuss everything with him so he is as prepared as I can make him, and send him to school. The fall-back plan will be to do online schooling if he just can't deal with the challenges of regular school. It's odd that I never worried this much about the older kids, and they have Asperger's too. I think it's because they're all so close in age that they each had a bit of independence by the time they reached school age because my attention was on raising the next baby. And this time, my full attention is on #5 because there is no "next child" to take my attention and force him to be a little more self-entertained. He's always been in my arms, playing at my feet, in my lap, or next to me. He's going to have a big learning curve when school starts, and I worry for him. I worry for me too. I think that first day of school this fall is going to be one filled with anxiety and tears and I won't feel OK until he's home again and I know he's alright. I anticipate a lot of tears. I may have to ask for anxiety meds for that first week of school.
Wow, that turned into a small book of a rant didn't it? Yikes! Sorry to unload! I don't want to end this blog on a sad/sour note, so let me tell you about what I got in the mail today.
Brief back story here - I almost never buy clothes for myself - I wear second-hand, hand-me-downs, or whatever I get for Christmas or my birthday.
The other day I saw a shirt online and I loved it. I loved it enough that I scraped up $10 to pay for it. I used every coupon and gift certificate I had and the Paypal money I'd earned from my RedBubble sales. It came today...
It has the two door knockers from the (Jim Henson) movie The Labyrinth (with David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly). One positioned over each breast. In between are the words "It's very rude to stare" (which is one of their quotes from the film). I love it. Did I say that already?
I do plan to do (a lot) more winter sowing in the next month or two, so if you've been waiting for the winter sowing posts, hold on to your hats, because they're coming!
The first run of chicken eggs in the second (hatching) incubator are due to hatch tomorrow. I'm unsure on these because despite having temperature and humidity where they should be, the little blobs inside the eggs looked under-developed for being put into the hatching incubator. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. So far no pips and I can't hear any peeps from outside the incubator. Fingers crossed for baby chick photos tomorrow!
Amanda's blog about everything, important and trivial.