This photo is from yesterday but I wanted to share it. I went to check the nest box for eggs and found Luna asleep in the hay. She stood up for some attention and revealed a nice warm egg underneath her. I guess the chicken was able to get in at some point, and Luna though a warm egg was a lovely place to nap.
Today both of the remaining ducklings disappeared. #3 found one dead with a leg broken in the same way the one had been before. We were unable to find either of the other ducklings. At first Matt seemed to be trying to find them, walking around calling out, but by bedtime she seemed to have given up. She was in the barn with the other birds and calm when the barn got closed up. We still have no idea what happened with the ducklings. When we saw them all the birds seemed to be accepting. Josh (the African gander who guards Matt) accepted the babies, Matt was being a great mom. I know it wasn't our barn cats, they left the last ducklings alone. I know it wasn't Moose because he's trained not to mess with the birds, and I know it wasn't Mazikeen or they'd be very slobbery and chewed on. I still suspect the new feral cat is to blame, since nothing like this happened this spring. Regardless, it's still heartbreaking. I want to just pull all the eggs from the ducks indefinitely and not have any more mom-raised babies. But I know, the hurt will subside, and I'll feel guilty stealing eggs from a broody momma duck, and I'll say "but maybe this time it'll be ok" and I'll do it all again.
This photo is from yesterday but I wanted to share it. I went to check the nest box for eggs and found Luna asleep in the hay. She stood up for some attention and revealed a nice warm egg underneath her. I guess the chicken was able to get in at some point, and Luna though a warm egg was a lovely place to nap.
Despite having multiple nest boxes in the barn, it seems this is the preferred box. I'm not sure why. I may have to invest in more similar boxes since they don't seem interested in the plastic ones that are mounted to the wall. Just the slat wooden one on the shelf. But not the solid wood one just beside it on the shelf, or the more enclosed carrier to the other side.
Just a quick blog before I head off to bed. Today was productive. The kids all went to Grandpa's house and I got to spend all evening home alone. The dishes are done, the floor is swept, I even scrubbed the sinks and bathtub down! It was a one-person cleaning party today. It's amazing how much I can get done when the kids aren't here.
On a sad note, one of the ducklings had an accident. It was fine this morning when the barn was opened up, but this afternoon when #3 went to do barn chores she found it near the kiddie pool with a broken leg. We suspect one of the geese stepped on it, but we have no way to know for sure. We tried to put it back in the nest, we considered bringing it in, but it just cried and cried and then Matt got upset and started abandoning her other two to try to come to the window where she could hear the baby. Eventually we settled on using a large litter box (clean) filled with grass set right next to the nest, with some chick started feed in it. All was well as of 2:30 when kids left. When I went back to check at 5:00 the duckling was gone. When I went out again at 8:00 to close up the barn, I braved attack to lift Matt up off her nest. The two other babies were there with her, but not the broken one. I can't hear it calling, I can't find it. I think something got it. I suspect the new feral cat, since our barn cats didn't seem interested in the ducklings this spring.
We now have six more jars of apple butter, a baggy full of dehydrated apple slices, and about half a loaf of homemade bread left. Temperature in the house was 65 this morning. Not bad for being 38 outside last night and not having the heater on!
Despite rain ruining our plans to build a door, today was a great day on the homestead!
As soon as kids left for the bus I gathered two eggs, three tomatoes, and a small bucket of apples.
When the kids got home from school I was out feeding the birds when I spotted one of the young hens in a nest box. I asked her if she was laying an egg, and as if to answer, she stood up to reveal two eggs underneath her. Yay!! Our spring chickens have started to lay eggs!
And which chicken was it sitting on that nest? None other than "Broke-Toes" the very first of the spring chickens to have been moved outside.
This evening as the rain picked up, I decided to put a feed bag over the cage over Matt's nest, since she was refusing to get off the nest today. I thought I was doing a good thing, but it seems instead I scared her off her nest. Tonight she's back in the barn... with her three new ducklings.
We didn't have much luck with mom-raised ducklings surviving this spring, and with cold weather soon approaching, I don't hold out much hope for these babies, but here's to hoping for the best. Happy hatch day babies!
We planned to have BLT's for dinner, so #3 and #4 went out to the garden in the dark and rain to fetch two more tomatoes. Dinner was delicious.
Five and a half more jars of apple butter are in jars, and tomorrow evening I'll start another batch to be cooking over night to help keep the heat up (low of 39 tomorrow night). We haven't had to turn the heater on yet this year (knock on wood).
I haven't seen the little buff kitty since the other night. I think perhaps it's moved on. Hopefully it went back to wherever it came from. I hope it's safe and fed and warm.
This week we're expecting a low in the 30's (Friday night). Summer never lasts long enough here. Winter is already trying to put its icy fingers into the nights. I'm still trying to hold off as long as possible before turning the heater on. The thermostat is set to 60, and so far we haven't dropped below 70 in the house, despite temperatures n the 50's and 60's outside. Friday night I'll have to get some apple butter in the crock pot, some apples or herbs in the dehydrator, and the bread machine going over night to try to keep us above that 60-degree threshold. Maybe I'll fire up the space heater too.
Matt the duck continues to sit on her nest. According to when she first went missing, we're guessing eggs should start hatching about the 24th of this month. Less than a week to go! On last check she was up to a dozen eggs in there, and three were noticeably turning dark (rotten). For the past week or so, Quiche, the Indian Runner hen has been laying with Matt in the nest at night. I find the two of them every morning at the gate to the barn, hollering for breakfast. So when I open the barn, while all the other ducks, chickens, geese, and guineas are rushing out, they're running in to get at the food bin.
For some strange reason I have the urge to go through my seed collection. Re-organize, check inventory, and get it all sorted again. That's a heck of an undertaking though, I'm not sure I'm up for quite that big of a project. That may just be the colder temperatures talking.
Mazikeen, our Saint Bernard puppy, is five months old now. She is just a hair taller than Moose now. He's considered a large breed (80 pounds I think last time we weighed him). Mazikeen is going to be a beast of a dog. Her parents were massive too. She still has a year of growing. Wow.
Tomorrow is Tony's one day this week he has off. I think the project we'll be working on is building a door for our bedroom. Yup, that's right - no doors on the bedrooms here. Though the boys' bedroom does have a door, it just doesn't close all the way. So yeah, privacy is pretty much non-existent. I had drawn up a neat wooden door plan I liked from looking at other images online and Tony says he can make it. We'll still need to order hinges and a door knob of some kind, but that'll have to wait until next pay day. We already have the wood on hand because he bought it a while ago.
Tony was supposed to have yesterday off and we were supposed to get a bunch of stuff done. Then the assistant manager didn't bother to show up for work, and Tony had to go to work instead. And again today the assistant manager didn't come. No call, no show, won't answer his phone. I even checked the local in custody and accident reports, but couldn't track this guy down. I guess today they got a hold of his father and asked him to check in to see what was going on. In the meantime, we're slipping further and further behind schedule. Never got the gardens in, still have permanent plants that are running out of time to root before it gets too cold - still needing to be transplanted, I've got all kinds of projects in various stages that need to get done before winter... I can't help but feel like with him being gone 70+ hours a week for going on three weeks now (tomorrow is day 21 with no time off), I'm struggling to get things done and I need help.
I wish he could work from home, but right now there's nothing he could do from home that could pull in enough to cover our bills. House payment, electricity, gas, phone bill, and of course the astronomical feed cost for all the animals I keep.
I think he just calculated we have something like $300 in rebate checks to Menards (love 11% sales). Perhaps we will buy a chest freezer to store meat in, and we can process some critters before it gets cold.
Matt continues to be a good mom, staying on her hidden nest at the edge of the yard. She comes off to eat and drink, and then goes right back. Today while she was off I put the wire cage top over it and put a feed bag on top of that, then opened up the side door and left it over the nest. The idea being two fold. If the cage stays on her nest all the time she can still come and go as she wants to, but now she only has to guard one opening rather than all around her. We are also expecting a lot of rain in the nest couple of weeks, so by putting the feed bag over the top, it may help to keep her nest at least a little dryer than it would be otherwise. I did not lock the little cage top over her tonight, but instead left the door open in case she wants to go get a drink or something. Every night out is a predator risk. Perhaps the smell of human so nearby, including my touching the feed bag and cage will deter would-be predators. I can hope anyway.
We lost one baby from Snowflake's litter, and Thumper still has no babies. Tomorrow I need to sanitize one of the smaller cages and move Skittles in to the colony building. He needs to get acclimated to the ladies before he's let loose. He's currently smaller than the girls in there, and that worries me a bit. I've got a place set aside for his temporary cage in there while he and the ladies meet through the cage. I don't know how long he will stay in the cage in there, but I'm tempted to leave him in there until he's grown larger than they are. They should definitely be acclimated by then. Since he's not old enough to start breeding right now anyway, it could also give the ladies a chance to deliver any litters they may be pregnant with now and not have to worry about Skittles harassing or harming the babies (not that I think he would). And of course once Skittles is moved to the colony building, that means Rugby will have to be moved over to the buck cage, because it won't be appropriate for him to stay in the cage with his momma any more.
I need to work on getting more ads posted and get more bunnies moved out. I could use the money to pay for more feed, and I could certainly do with fewer mouths to feed. Of course, the more I sell the fewer we have available to feed us through the winter. I'm especially hoping to find a home for Peter Parker. He's too cute to eat, and I don't need another buck.
I was watching something the other day and there was some story about how people sell their adopted kids online when they don't adjust well or have special needs they don't want to deal with anymore, and how it's a way for child abusers and sex traffickers to get kids without having to kidnap them. It broke my heart that someone would willingly place a child in danger like that. It's a good thing I don't understand how that system works, or I'm afraid I'd go off and start collecting unwanted children to save them from bad situations. I wonder why this is happening. Is there some government office working on tracking down the people doing that and rescuing the kids? On the other hand, I honestly have to wonder what kind of a price tag a human child comes with on this "black market" of sorts. When adoption is so expensive, why would people go through all the background checks and home visits, paperwork, and expense, and then turn around and throw a child away? I don't understand. It makes no sense. Then again, I have special needs children, so perhaps I'm biased. My heart goes out to those poor unwanted children who find themselves trapped in a broken system.
Rough day today. Two of our hens are down and lame, and I don't know why. Same symptoms as previous roosters. They just lay down and act like their legs don't work anymore, they looks weak and tired, then die within 24 hours. I expect they'll both be dead in the morning. Are they eating the potato plants? What is the problem?
The kids caught Luna (one of the barn cats) with a baby bunny in her mouth. Bunny was warm and unharmed, but we can't figure out where the baby came from. Spotty had her litter a couple days ago, no babies since, and her cage has 1/4" mesh so a baby couldn't have gotten out. Thumper has no fur pulled and isn't nesting yet. Snowflake was panting a bit, but no nesting. The kids said they found Luna under Snowflake's cage, so I put the baby in her nest box hoping she'd accept it and pull some fur. A while later, the kids reported that Snowflake has not taken an interest and baby was getting cold. So we warmed it back up and ended up adding it in with the youngest colony litter. They're already growing fur, but it's the only option I had.
While in the colony building, the kids found our big buck had died. Kin hadn't been well lately. He started losing patches of fur and he wasn't eating as well as he used to. I figured maybe the ladies were picking on him. Tomorrow I plan on cleaning out the entire building and bringing in fresh bedding. Better safe than sorry. I had been considering replacing him since watching him chase babies in the last two litters. I guess now I don't have a choice.
My replacement options are fairly limited. Today I sat down with #3 and consulted her on her thoughts on a new buck. Together we looked at each of our bucks, their genetics and colors, and ruled out using any of our adult bucks. Now we are considering keeping back one of our buck babies. Will it be Skittles, who is absolutely adorable, but comes from a diverse genetic background? Or Peter Parker, who'd be breeding back to his mom and aunts, but would throw a lot more long haired babies? Right now I'm leaning more towards Skittles, just for the color diversity he'd being in. It would also mean having another crack at Bennett's genetics. I do miss Bennett. He was an awesome breeding buck. Still kind of kicking myself for selling him. I only have one of his grand-daughters and one of his grandsons left (Skittles' parents).
And to kick the whole day into another level of disappointment and sadness, this evening Hermione was struggling to breathe. I know she'd had a goopy eye yesterday and the day before, but this came on suddenly. She passed away late tonight just before I typed this up. She was just hours short of being three weeks old. Now it's just Harry left, and one of his eyes is a little wet. I'm worried. But our vet won't see babies until they're six weeks old. So we have to get Harry through three more weeks before we could even hope to get him real medical help if he gets sick. We're going to watch him closely and hope for the best. We're madly in love with him.
We did have one bit of happiness today. We found Matt, the missing duck. She's built a nest just off the side of the yard in a nice well hidden area. She's sitting on 8-9 eggs (according to my husband who braved to bother her with a flashlight in hand tonight). I don't want to destroy her nest, and I'm not willing to set up the incubator and brooder again, especially this late in the season. I was worried if we moved her, she may abandon the nest. So I took the wire top from a cage and gently set it over her tonight. It doesn't sit even on the ground, it won't stop predators from coming, but it may slow them down, or at least give her that much more time to wake up if she's sleeping. We will have to take it back off in the morning and put it back on at night. I don't even know if she's going to be able to hatch out and raise ducklings now. It may be getting cold by the time they hatch. Let's see, if she went missing yesterday, we can start our egg incubation count from there. That means eggs may be due to hatch around September 24th. That's a really late hatch considering how slowly ducks feather out. I don't see this working out. I have to give her big credit for building such an awesome nest and hiding it so well. I hate to just shoo her off it and take the eggs away. This may need further thought. I may end up just taking her eggs and sending her back to the barn. For her own safety and so we don't get our hopes up for babies that either never come, or die soon after.
I continue to have allergy and sinus issues. I wonder what's blooming right now that's setting my allergies off so bad. It's not just me either, because #1 and #2 are also suffering from the sniffles.
Now I'm wondering if I got the kittens' genders completely backwards... Is Harry a girl? Is Hermione a boy?? It's so much more complicated when they're furry! Naked kittens are easy to gender check. Maybe next time I'll wait until they're several weeks old to give names and check genders. That seems to work well for the bunnies too.
We're on bunny watch, but no new babies today. Both expectant does are due tomorrow. So far no hay stashing or fur pulling from either bunny. Thumper had pulled some fur a couple days ago, but has not pulled any more since we gave her a nest box. Snowflake does the bulk of her fur pulling after she delivers.
I felt better yesterday, and this morning was alright, but I hit about 2:30 this afternoon and I was falling asleep sitting up. I took a nap and woke up back to the same level of miserable I was at a few days ago. Why does my body ache? I feel like it's 90-degrees in here, but it's not. No fever, no chills, no headache, so not the flu. Still hoping it goes away on it's own so I don't have to go see a doctor.
This morning Matt, our rouen cross duck, was out on her own before I opened the barn to let the other birds out. This is the second time. So tonight when #3 closed up the barn I asked her to look for Matt. Matt did not come in at dark to get locked in the barn. We aren't sure where Matt is going at night, but at this rate, Matt won't be around for much longer if she doesn't start coming back to the barn. There's no predator protection out on her own at night. Silly bird.
On Friday the kids and I took the metal detector out for a little while. We didn't find much of interest. One giant square-headed railroad tie, one smaller square metal bolt, a U-nail, what appears to be a toy car axle, and a bunch of rusted metal scrap. While digging, #3 made the realization that "clay soil" literally means it's clay. At that point the detector game was over and she was more interested in digging up some clay to see if she could make something. Since I didn't want her digging up the yard, we found a place out in the front fields near the crab apple trees for her to dig up some clay. I picked up a bunch of crab apples off the ground while she did that. Here's Friday's finds and harvest:
I'm not sure how to tell when crab apples are ripe. The big ones in the left container were all on the ground, but on another nearby tree were much smaller apples that hadn't started to fall but were darker red. So I picked a few of them. I do plan on doing more research, but for simplicity sake, if anyone can just shoot me an email, I'd appreciate someone explaining crab apples to me. A good jelly recipe for them would also be greatly appreciated!
As of Saturday, both kittens have their eyes open. I am 99% sure that Harry and Hermione are both girls. The kids are split on changing Harry's name. I say we keep it. Harry could be short for Harriett, right?
Today was Sunday. I laid down early last night, not feeling well, and fell asleep before Tony got home. Thankfully the older kids are more than capable of watching the littler ones. Built in babysitters are a blessing! I woke up this morning feeling achy and sore. It took me all morning and into the afternoon to finally drag myself out of bed. Hot pack, ibuprofen, and the need to pee fueled my eventual rise. Even so, my knees hurt. What a weird thing, when the ibuprofen took away all the back, tummy, sinus, and throat aches, but made my knees hurt? Needless to say, I didn't get much done today.
I snapped a few photos of the spitz pair. They are gorgeous birds, but I don't think I'll be able to do them justice as a pair. I have no way to keep them separate from the rest of the flock to keep their genetics pure. If I did, I'd keep them in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the coop available locally that could fit two birds is $250 and with no heat and no way to move the open-bottom cage in the winter to prevent build up when it's too frozen to clean it out regularly... It's an expensive and risky investment.
Above and below are photos of Rockadoodle, our Golden Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben rooster. What threw me off for a long time is that he doesn't have a large comb or waddles. Someone else posted a photo of their golden spitz roo and he had prominent waddles, so I started to doubt myself about this guy.
His giveaway though is that he has saddle feathers and one of his two rooster tail feathers has started to grow in. Even though he hasn't crowed yet, this one is definitely a rooster! He's also a good deal bigger than the other one, and walks more upright.
There's also a strange color contrast between these two. Rockadoodle had developed more of a black with gold flashes appearance, while his girlfriend is clearly more golden with black flecks. I don't know if this is normal or not, but I've been told this breed is not color sexed, so I suppose it's not common.
Above and below are photos of Goldie, our Golden Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben hen. She's much smaller than Rockadoodle and walks normally like the other chickens (not the weird upright way he does). You can see on her face that she has no comb and only the tiniest smidge of waddled. Her face is also pink, while his is red. She does appear to have noticable hackle feathers. I'm not sure what to make of that
On her back side, she has no saddle feathers, which would further indicate she's a hen. The one thing that's throwing me right now is that she does have one longer tail feather. It's not as narrow and pointed as a rooster feather, but a hen shouldn't have any longer feathers like this.
Bonus points to anyone who caught the throwback to a 1991 children's cartoon movie called Rockadoodle (main character is named Chanticleer and he gets a girlfriend named Goldie). Anyway, since a Chantecler is a breed of chicken, I went with Rockadoodle for the rooster's name instead.
I am so glad I stayed up to write this blog! As I was writing I head Josh (our African gander) outside hollering, and a duck frantically quacking. This is not normal behavior. So I put the dogs out and ran for the barn. One lonely duck was outside the barn, desperately trying to get through the fence to get in the barn as it started to downpour. I got the duck in the barn, wrangled the dogs back in the house, and now that I'm done blogging, I do believe it's time for bed.
Today has been an interesting one.
This morning my husband woke me up on his way out the door to tell me we had fresh Zombabies in the bathroom and that Zombie was not cleaning them off or chewing umbilical cords. I shot out of bed and grabbed some supplies on my way into the bathroom.
We have three new babies, and all three appear to be in good health so far. They're a little sneezy but I suspect that's from her not cleaning them off. By the time I got down there, Mabel (our dominant queen) had taken over and cleaned them up and set them in a clean spot, so I just had to cut cords.
Introducing, Harry, Ron, and Hermione. They all appear to be long haired. Harry and Ron are both a gorgeous silver grey (blue), and Hermione is white with blue patches.
Zombie was a terrible mom with her first litter - a single kitten clearly born with some kind of defect (I can't explain what was wrong with it, it just wasn't "right" and it died shortly after it was born). Zom never cared for it at all. Wanting to be proactive, Tony stopped by the feed store and bought a baby bottle on his way to work, and was planning to stop for a can of goats milk on his way home. Fortunately, it seems Zom has figured out she is expected to feed her minions. Now if I could keep Sage from rough-housing and Mabel from trying to steal them...
I realized while finishing adding all the updated photos to the rabbits page, that the older colony litter is already 11 weeks old. Yikes! Time for brother Skor to move out! So I swapped Skor (who'd been living with his four sisters), and Dianna Prince (a doe from the month younger colony litter who'd been housed with her six brothers). So now Diana is with the candy-named litter, and Skor is with the hero-named litter, and everyone is split; bucks in one pen, does in the other.
While out and about, we had a bit of an incident. The birds were hungry so they followed me down to the little field behind the barn. I had been hoping to have such an opportunity to show them the field and the lake access from it that they hadn't discovered yet on their own. While down there, a couple of the birds stopped by the edge of the lake to drink, and that's when Mazikeep decided it would be fun to scare the chickens and chase one out into the lake. Well, she only gave chase until she was about ankle deep in water, but the chicken was already out in deeper water by then. He (it was a cockerel) managed to flap through the duckweed to get to a bog about eight feet out. Unfortunately, that bog had no ground connection to the yard and the reeds around it were so close together, he couldn't go anywhere.
With a little courage, #3 and #4 decided to go on a rescue mission. You can watch the video HERE. The cockerel was safely recovered and brought back to land and was at the food bowl this evening. Still a little wet, but otherwise he seemed no worse for the wear. Hopefully he leaves the swimming to the ducks and geese from here on out.
I am a huge believer in environmental enrichment for caged pets... But it occurred to me, the joy should be for all animals. Today we gathered duckweed from the lake and deposited it in the pool when I went to refill it. The ducks loved it! I went back to the lake to get more after I took this photo, and the girls stood in the pool to hose off after rescuing the chicken, so by the end of the day there was plenty of duckweed to go around. Even the chickens seemed intrigued by their new tasty water salad option.
Not sure what I'm planning for tomorrow. I'm still up in the air about a couple people who want to meet for rabbits. I'm hoping to get a bunch moved out into new homes this month before school starts next month.
Yeah, I can't believe I just said that. School starts next month! We're already there... To that school shopping season again. The end of warm weather and gardening and playing outside, the end of barefoot walking through the yard, the end of t-shirts and open windows to feel the breeze. I'm never ready for the cold weather to hit again. But hey, I should have enough indoor and craft projects to keep me busy this winter. Crocheting new things, making earrings, maybe even learning something new (soap making, candle making, get better at sewing?). Lots more garden plans, and once January and February roll around, it'll be back into winter sowing season again. This will be my last school year with a kid at home. I'm seriously considering home schooling #5 just so I don't have empty nest syndrome on winter week days while kids are at school. I've been a full time mom for nearly 17 years now, so it's foreign to think about spending days all by myself. Good golly, I'd have all the time in the world to wash laundry and dishes and do crafts... But alas, the thought scares me. The house will be too quiet without kids. I'm not ready yet. Good thing I'm a full year out from that.
House chores are almost completely caught up. I just need to mop the bathroom floor and ... oh wait, I have kids... By the time I get the bathroom mopped tomorrow I'll have more dishes and laundry and have to pick up the living room again. Ah well, better a home lived in than a house on display, right? I'm sure there will be years in the future when my kids have all gone on to their adult lives where I will miss the constant cycles of daily cleaning.
I suspect "empty nest syndrome" is probably a lot harder for people who've spent a lot more time parenting. Considering #1 is 12 years older than #5, by the time all five kids are old enough to move out and start college or get an apartment and a job, I'll have been parenting for over 30 years.
We've only had one more bird death since the bad run earlier this week. This one was just a fluke accident. Mazikeen (our Saint Bernard puppy) is the biggest klutz. She trips over her own feet, walks into things, and randomly falls over sometimes when she turns too fast. We suspect she managed to knock the gate over going into the barn while out for a potty break. The kids found one of the black sex link cockerels dead under the knocked over gate this afternoon. The gate has only fallen over three times I can remember in the past year, and one of those times it only got knocked cockeyed. Either way, I'm not sure what else I can do to secure the gate when it's open to prevent it from happening again.
Today #5 and I made bread in the bread machine. I modified the recipe to include vegan butter instead of normal, and almond milk instead of regular so I could eat it without taking dairy pills and risking getting sick. Then we added in several individual packets of sunflower seeds that we had in the cupboard, the honey that was in the bottom of the container, a dash of onion powder, and a cup of finely chopped yellow squash (I'm not sure if it is zucchini or some other kind of summer squash). Then I decreased the water to 1/2 cup (it calls for just shy of 1-1/2 cups, but the honey and squash add moisture). I looked at it as it was mixing and added a splash more, but it looked good in the machine. I hope it turns out good. The loaf looks good, albeit slightly lop sided and a little dark around the edges. It's too hot to eat this evening. I'll cut it up tomorrow.
Today I wandered over to the black raspberry plants along the black walnut row. There were a small handful of berries ripe for the picking. I only got a few before #5 spotted me and asked for some (I gave him the rest), but they were pretty tasty. Some weren't as sweet as prior years at the old house, but I suspect that may be due to the change of location.
Today I also managed to snap a good photo of Happy Feet. She is gorgeous! Her mom (Dashi) is a purebred Rouen and her dad (Helvegan) is supposed to be a rouen cross (I suspect with Khaki Campbell). She didn't get any of Helvegan's silver coloring, but she's not nearly as drab and plain brown as Dashi either. Her feathers are each outlined and she is just pretty to look at. She also has cute feet. Her legs and toes are pale orange but her webbing between her toes is black.
I'm pretty sure Happy Feet is a girl based on her voice. We won't know for 100% until she lays an egg (or gets a tail curl).
The flower seeds we planted over the winter losses grave site are now flowering. One of the cosmos is this absolutely gorgeous white and pink flower (that is being visited by a tiny bee). I really hope this one drops seeds and grows even more next year!
I took a bunch of photos today of the birds. The hope is that I can go through them and try to identify more of the chickens and see if any more are starting to show saddle feathers (indicating they're boys). The photo below is one of them, but I love this photo for a few reasons.
At first glance this photo looks like a dirty mud puddle in the yard. I had dumped the pool out on the cement there to refill it with clean water, and it was raining before and right after this photo was taken, so the rest of the yard is also wet and muddy. The birds, of course, are drawn to any water source I put in the yard, including dumping the dirty pool water.
A closer look reveals some interesting tidbits.
At the top left is a group of three birds. In the center of that group is Ralphie, our Golden Duckwing Phoenix rooster. I adore him. Beside him is one of the Golden Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben birds (I believe the hen). On the other side is another bird (a Rhode Island Red hen perhaps?).
At the top right of the pool is a Light Brahma hen, looking at her own reflection in the pool. Standing beside her is a Rhode Island Red hen wondering what in the world the Light Brahma hen is so interested in.
The three ducks at the bottom of the pool are some of the last ducklings to hatch from the incubator. The two closer to the pool are nearly feathered out, but still have the baby feathers around the backs of their heads, making them oddly resemble the stereotypical monk in a Robin Hood film. The third duck, closer to the puddle is a strange color. Considering the two drakes that could be the father are a Khaki Campbell/Rouen and a purebred Fawn and White Indian Runner, and the three hens that could be the mother are a purebred Indian Runner (brown and white), a purebred rouen, or a rouen cross. How in the world did this duck get such an interesting muted silver and grey color? I'll be interested to see how this one grows out.
The black chicken right in the center of everything, I'm not sure if she is a Black Jersey Giant or a Black Australorp, but she has striking white toenails for such an otherwise solidly black bird.
On the bottom right of the photo you will see a brown duck (Happy Feet) and a white and brown duck (Indian Runner - possibly a cross - one of the younger ducklings). But in the far bottom right corner is a striped bird. This one hatched from the eggs we bought from #1's friend. This bird looks like a Black Sex Link cockerel, but it has a tuft on the top of it's head because it's a Polish cross of some kind. It also has a weird comb and I'm left waiting to see if saddle feathers come in since comb-sexing isn't an option.
A lot going on, but it's all captured in one photo.
No new babies in the colony yet, but they've been digging so I think we may have some more soon. We did lose the littlest kit from the colony litter. The one that survived the ant attack that took out the rest of it's litter. The little one I was calling Tiny Tort. Poor baby was in the dirt outside this morning in the rain. S/he was still warm, but was already dead by the time we saw him/her. Sad. I was so impressed at the tenacity of this tiny bunny keeping up with the much bigger adopted siblings. No idea what happened. They had food in the bin and water in their bowl, and bunny wasn't overly wet, so it had to have been inside when it was raining this morning and gone out after the rain had stopped.
Tuesday update, not exactly as anticipated.
Sunday evening the duckling that's been slow and struggling passed away. I figured he would. I don't know what his issue was but he didn't want to get up and refused to eat and drink. He'd been down for several days, and I kept moving him, cleaning him off, and setting him near the food and water.
Sunday night when I went to close up the barn, Peg-leg Sue and another duckling were still outside. Tony had to go and get them from around the side of the barn. Weird, but not overly unusual. Both ducklings were lethargic, but I figured it was late and they were probably just tired. Especially Peg-leg Sue since she spends so much of her energy just getting around. So I set both babies near the water bowl, just beside the food bowl, and I closed up the barn and went to bed.
Monday morning when I opened up the barn, Peg-leg Sue wasn't with the other ducklings. I went to investigate and found her and the other duckling, both dead. They had gone back to their nest area and appeared to have died in their sleep. I walked out of the barn and looked at my potato towers. Sure enough, one of my once lush and full potato towers is now half empty. They must have eaten the potato plants!
I did some research and it turns out that I was correct that potato plants are toxic (as we suspected after similarly losing some potato plants the day before our old hen Henrietta died). However, everything I read says that birds will typically avoid eating toxic plants unless they are starving and have no other food options. I'm confused now. We have 70 acres, none of it is off limits to the birds. They have fields, yard, trees, brush, every kind of natural grass, weed, and wildflower, plus their daily bowl of commercial feed in case they're not getting enough through forage. If anything I suspect some of my birds are becoming obese. Further, they have a lake something like 50 feet from the back of the barn. A lake with a nice shallow area with reeds and duckweed. What on Earth would possess now three of our birds to eat the potatoes? Is it just their proximity to the barn? Am I not feeding them enough, despite also having all day to forage? Or is this like my husband says, just a case of the survival of the fittest and the dumb ones don't make it? After all, out of roughly 100 birds, only three ate the potatoes right?
I had to message the lady that I was set to meet today to let her know that Peg-leg Sue had died. The real tragedy is that she was literally one day from being a pampered pet.
Today the old washer and dryer were taken away, and the new ones dropped off. Tony installed them, we ran to town to get the new dryer vent for the dryer. I picked up a new goldfish for the fish tank in the bathroom. We'll see if this one lasts longer. Last time I got a $5 fantail and it died six days later. This one is a 15-cent feeder goldfish.
We got home from shopping and one of the kids noticed a bird died in the barn. It was our lighter black cochin hen (one of our keepers). No idea why. She didn't look like she'd been attacked, no damages obvious, and she hadn't appeared sick that I had noticed.
Then we went off to go pick up a couple new rabbits. These were supposed to be two rex does for #4 who has been wanting another rex doe since her rex Elizabeth died last winter. We drove an hour to pick them up, they came with their cages and were free - so I really can't complain too much. These rabbits are not rex. Not at all. Nonetheless, #4 is happy to have her own little girl bunnies and is thinking of names for them.
When we got home from our bunny journey, my husband spotted a duckling curled up under the big shade tree, dead. What? What is going on here? I went into the barn to refill the food dish and found another chick dead. One of the younger black sex link cockerels from the hatch with the purchased eggs. That's six birds in three days! They couldn't all be from potato poisoning could they? I watched the rest of the birds for a good long while, but nobody seems sick. They're all moving around, eating grass and bugs, drinking from the pool (which is dumped and refilled fresh at least once a day). It's not been terribly hot or humid the last couple of days, nothing else has changed. I looked over all the bodies and there are no signs of obvious problems. I don't think this is a predator issue, but I'm wondering if it may be an issue with rooster aggression. I have seen Big Red attack a few of the younger birds, and I'm not sure why. He doesn't appear to be interested in breeding but he's not posturing like he does with Phil (two roosters seeing who's dominant). I will try to be outside more tomorrow to keep a closer eye on the flock while they're out and about. If this is a dominance issue, Big Red (or whoever is responsible) will have to go. I won't have a bird that kills other birds. I hope the answer is so simple. I'm not up on my bird diseases, but none of them are acting lethargic or laying excessively, no sneezing or itching, and aside from what appears to be Josh molting feathers all over the yard, they are all in good feather. We don't use pesticides or herbicides or any kind of spray or anything so that's not an issue. I'm hoping it's just a fluke thing and not some widespread issue. Last fall with the mold-induced rabbit illness, I was almost ready to throw in the towel and just cry. I cried, a lot. There was too much death. I don't want to go through anything like that again. Not with bunnies, not with birds, not with anything.
On a positive note, I picked up a 3-in-1 blueberry bush at Menard's today. Since my other blueberries aren't looking as good or are still seedlings, this might give me a little leg up on getting some blueberries n the next couple of years rather than several years.
It's been a busy weekend! I got lots of house chores caught up, got #4 to clean her room (finally), and talked to Tony about the carpet upstairs. Mazikeen keeps having accidents in #4's bedroom... Only in her bedroom and at the bottom of the stairs. This despite being let out every night before bed, and every morning with the first person up, and frequently throughout the day. She was raised in a barn as an outdoor dog, so we're really starting from scratch. I'm struggling with it. Moose was never this hard to potty train. He picked up on it pretty quick. I'm getting frustrated with Maize because I *hate* cleaning up messes, especially knowing what it's doing to my carpet.
The compromise we came to? Pull out all the carpet in #4's bedroom. There's a small swatch at the top of the stairs where the carpet is already coming up. It's a wood floor underneath painted that 60's/70's shade of yellow. I want to tear the carpet out and see if it's a nice floor underneath. We got lucky at the old house and when we tore out the nasty carpet there was a wood floor underneath. In poor condition, but a wood floor no less. I'm hoping if we pull the carpet before the carpet pads have a chance to seep into the floor (yes, I'm cleaning up every mess as soon as I find it), maybe we can salvage the floor. And then #4 can pick out a rug or two for her room instead. A couple $6 or $10 rugs sure beats a $300-$500 carpet install! Tony already picked up whatever kind of tacks or nails that he will need to fix the one loose board (you can feel it when you walk over the carpet in that one spot).
Tomorrow's project - carpet removal. Most of it will have to be thrown away I'm sure, but I wonder if some of the old carpet couldn't be re-used for something else. It would be a great way to kill the grass in the area I want to put in a garden. We could cut a chunk of it out to use as a rug if #4 wanted. I just feel bad having to pull it out. I had really intended to keep it as long as possible. I love the aesthetic of this old house. I think the wall cracks and the uneven floors give it character. It's not what other people might consider perfect, but I love it. Even down to the old green / yellow / orange long strand carpet that I swear I remember from my grandfather's house when I was a child... It seems ubiquitous to the 60's or 70's.
On Tuesday we have a couple interesting things going on. Tony bought a new washer and dryer set since our dryer isn't working properly. They're being delivered some time Tuesday. I finally found someone who wants to adopt Peg-leg Sue. She (or he) will be moving on to their new family on Tuesday. And I found a lady in one of my Facebook groups giving away two bunnies, their cages, and their accessories. She said they're rexes (one regular and one mini), both does. Just exactly what I've been looking for for #4 since her Elizabeth (rex doe) died last winter. She is excited to get two new bunnies that are just hers. Unfortunately, it's an hour away and I'll need to put all the seats down to fit the cages in the back, so no kids can come along. She'll have to wait at home for her new bunnies to arrive. Oh the suspense! She doesn't have a phone but #1 will be babysitting (and she has a phone), so I'll have to send a photo right away so she knows when we're on our way back with them. We'll be picking them up Tuesday as well.
Yesterday I put together a page for the chickens I have available for sale. Originally the deal was that I could buy the surprise box, and we'd take all of the roosters to the butcher in the fall. Well, of 49 birds that made it so far, only 9 are roosters... and of those nine, I plan to keep two and one I'm trying hard to sell so we don't have to butcher... So that leaves six to slaughter, and 42 birds to feed through winter. That's not something we can manage once they're on straight feed and no forage, especially when Tony's hours get cut in the winter. So I have to pick some (a lot) of the hens to go to slaughter, or I need to sell them. As much as I like the idea of raising my own meat, it seems unfair to kill birds I didn't consider to be food. So I'm offering a bunch for sale if anyone is interested. There are probably a lot more, but for the life of me I can't identify some. It's a colorful flock, sure to lay nice eggs. They seem to be mostly brown egg breeds. Anyway, if you're in the market for some chickens, they were hatched 4/2 and are nearly as big as my two adult roosters now. Check out the Chickens For Sale page!
It's been one full year. One year ago today we signed the papers, put down the deposit, and got the keys to this beautiful homestead. Every day here is an absolute blessing. Every morning, looking out over the lake, the sun peeking in the window, is an invitation to explore, learn, and enjoy the day. Every sunset is beautiful. It's so hard to feel down and depressed here. This place breathes love, tranquility, and an overwhelming sense of peace. It's as though the weight of the world is lifted from your shoulders. Yes, there are still chores to be done, but somehow they're easier here. In the last year we have shared our little piece of heaven with sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, pelicans, skunks, squirrels, bald eagles, hawks, a deer, sea gulls, various butterflies, Canadian geese, mallard ducks, a prairie skink, red wing black birds, ruby throated hummingbirds, a big brown snake, a pocket gopher, and various other interesting wildlife. We've started our bird collection and now have geese, chickens, ducks, and guineas. I can see all my dreams slowly coming together here. I fall more in love with this place at every turn. We've discovered apples, cherries, crab apples, serviceberries, asparagus, rhubarb, and wild strawberries. We have black walnut trees galore. In one years time (really just this spring and summer) we've added in two raised raspberry/blackberry beds, a raised strawberry bed, six potato beds, an in-ground raspberry bed, two border beds around the house, and we attempted an orchard - though almost all of the trees died or never came out of dormancy. We still have plans for even more garden space. This summer we will be adding blueberries, grapes, another serviceberry, currants, and more.
Today I've thought a lot about how wonderful this place is. It's as though someone asked me to make a list of everything I'd want in a home, and then custom made it just for me. It's old, but well loved. Some of the floors are tipped and the walls have cracks, but I swear it just exudes peace and a long history of love. The yard is huge, the house is manageable, there's always something new to discover. The kids keep wanting to take the metal detector out again. Maybe tomorrow.
On a sad note, this morning I found three eggs, and the duckling (dead) in a nest on the ground. This was our last hen-hatched duckling. I really thought she was going to make it. I have no idea what happened, but all of the other ducklings also died in the nest - so it has to have some kind of commonality. I don't understand why this is happening, so I have no way to prevent it from happening again. Perhaps next year we will just take the eggs away and not let the ducks hatch their own.
Peg-leg Sue continues to struggle with basic tasks. She's absolutely filthy. I did try to bathe her in the kiddie pool today but she was not happy and I didn't make any progress. She's got mud caked on her face now and I don't know how to clean her up. I did discover that if I set her by the food, and then gently hold her bad leg, she wobbles a bit but is able to eat for a lot longer than when she's constantly losing her balance. She is still not fond of being picked up, but she's getting better. I wish I had another clean place to put her. At this rate she's going to look like Pigsty from Peanuts... She's already halfway there.
I was out in the barn doing chores and I stopped to check in with the paralyzed rabbit. Yes, she's still here... I haven't gotten to processing her and I've been worried about my method considering he rpotential spinal injury. I don't want her to suffer if I botch the slaughter, and since I don't have a back-up method, I've been putting it off. She gets food and water daily. I have her set up in a big open air cage so she has space. The bottom I put two 12"x12" ceramic tiles side by side and she rests on them so her feet don't end up sticking out of the cage. I check in with her daily, talk to her, pet her, clean her up (remember she can't move her back half, so while she does have bladder and bowel control, she can't go to the corner to go potty). Today she was in an odd position - not the one I left her in. Since she can move her front half a little to get closer to the food or move away from it, I figured maybe she just tipped over. I touched her back right leg to move it and she pulled it out of my hand! Wait - what? I touched her leg, squeezed her foot gently, and tried again to move her, and no response. I didn't imagine in, right? So I started to clean up her space and she kicked her leg out again! I got her all situated and set back to a comfortable position, and as I petted her, she was flicking her tail! I'm trying not to get too excited because she still hasn't moved her left leg, and she's still not able to get her feet underneath her or make any coordinated movements, but... She can move! Even just a little... that's amazing!
I noticed some of the bunnies are getting some long claws on them. Currently #3 is off with a friend until Monday, but I think when she returns we're going to have a barn-wide bunny nail trim day and every bunny is going to have a little bit of a spa day. I think it will be good for them to get a trim, and besides, it gives me an excuse to give them a more thorough exam than I usually do at feeding time.
I've noticed that Sushi really hasn't been eating lately. It's been about a week now, I add his one cup of food, but he hasn't eaten what was there before. He's eating some, but not his entire ration, which is odd because he's a plump buck and he loves his food. His body condition is still good, teeth are as they should be, his claws are a little over grown, but that shouldn't mess with his ability to eat. Normal poops, clean butt, no sniffles. I'm not sure what's up with him. I'm keeping an eye on him though.
Which reminds me, one of the newer ducklings isn't doing well. I found him next to Sushi's cage, all the way across the barn from where the others in his group hang out. He's been there at least 24 hours, and didn't try to get away when I came and picked him up. He was soaked in stinky fluid underneath (likely he laid in Sushi's pee spot), so I brought him out to the pool and let him swim a bit. He drank a bit and moved around in the pool. When the embden goslings came they forced him out (they can be bullies). But then he just walked away and stood there for a while before laying down, like he was too exhausted to walk. So I brought him to the food bowl with the chick starter feed (in case he didn't like the transition to the flock feed). He didn't eat it, but laid next to the food bin. Tonight when I closed up the barn, the other 13 ducklings were out in the barn, and this guy and Peg-leg Sue were huddled up in a corner. I'll have to go check in on him in the morning.
I had hoped to order guinea keets and a couple turkeys from the hatchery, but today they announced a bad hatch this week for turkeys and took them off sale. Well, I don't want 15 guinea keets, even if they are on sale, and that's the minimum to avoid an additional charge. So it would seem we'll be waiting to order guineas and turkeys until next June. Assuming we still want them by then. You never know - maybe I can find someone local.
And in other news, I finally gave up and modified my hair. Having Asperger's means I am adverse to change much of the time. When my life-long hair lady retired a couple years ago, I stopped getting my hair cut (not that I got it cut often anyway). My hair is thick and it works great in the winter to keep my insulated... but in the summer, it's terrible. Today I have #1 shave the back of my head (under my hair so you can't see it unless I have my hair up in a ponytail). So much better!! Now when I start to get too hot I just throw it up in a pony and the wind cools me off! Today I actually resorted to soaking my head, neck, and face in hose water while out watering the gardens because it was just too hot. It was only 85 degrees, but it was humid.
There's no sign of rain in the forecast. That means tomorrow I have to go out and water the fruit trees. Tony jokes we have a nice row of sticks... I wasted so much money ordering fruit trees, buying them locally... Something like 14 fruit trees (average $20-$30 each) and we have two with green leaves... Two. I'm so disappointed with myself. I can do better. I don't know if we will have the funds to replace them next year. It's also going to be a pain in the butt because each of them was landscaped in with mulch and everything, and all that needs to be torn up and replaced then too. The strawberries never came up either. I think all those online garden places are frauds. The only company I ordered from that actually sent me live plants that are still thriving was Baker Creek. They're good people there. Gift certificates for Baker Creek are on my birthday and Christmas list from now on, and I'll pay extra and start with smaller plants to assure they aren't just dead sticks like the other companies send.
Great news today! While I was doing dishes this morning, I swear I heard the baby duck crying in the yard. When I went outside I found Peg-leg Sue making the same noise, but in a different part of the yard. I figured maybe I was losing my mind and being overly hopeful. I went back to work. While out doing barn chores a while later, I heard it again, this time from the garage. I walked over and sure enough, there's the lost duckling, standing beside the garage. Alive and well! I think the little one spent the night outside (through a pretty bad storm) but she seems unscathed. I caught her, gave her a quick look over, and returned her to the barn, showing her the freshly filled food bin in case she was hungry. As of bedtime tonight she's in the barn with the big ducks and Josh, so all is well again!
Yesterday I got the screen porch garden fenced in. I wish there was more in there, but it only gets partial sunlight. The two columbine plants might be salvaged, but the bleeding hearts died right away. I'll be looking for another to replace it. I added a couple cucumber and bean seeds in there just to see if I could use the space better. One bean and two cucumbers have come up so far, but the birds found the cucumbers before I did. I'm hoping it's not too late in the season and we can get some food out of this space.
Today I got the west border garden replanted and fenced. This space used to hold the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage... until the deer came along and ate it all. I put in Connecticut Field Pumpkin, White Pumpkin, Canoe Creek Colossal Melon, and Spaghetti Squash, which are joining the Japanese Black Pumpkin and the Old German tomato plants that survived the deer. It's all fenced in now. Hopefully that deters the deer. It's pretty late in the season, so I don't know if we'll get much from this space, but it's worth a shot.
Peg-leg Sue finally decided to leave the barn today. She did her best to try to keep up with the other ducklings, but she's markedly slower. I posted a video of her into a local pets group and someone is interested in adopting her. I've been trying actively to find her a new home since she was three weeks old. She's seven weeks old now. I hope I can find someone willing to pamper her and give her a good life. Hobbling along chasing her flock doesn't seem fair. She is getting dirty now that she's out and about. This is probably partially my fault, as I regularly flood the space outside the barn door. Some of the shy birds don't like to leave the barn to go to the pool or one of the several water spots around the yard. I've found they seem happier if I hose down that space so they don't have to leave the barn much (and it provides more water than setting a bucket there). I think poor Peg-leg Sue fell in today. She's got mud all down her front. I made sure to keep the lower bowls full in case she wants to attempt a bath, but she doesn't seem interested. I have no idea if she'd float if she got into the water, but the last time I tried to give her a bath she absorbed all the water. If she's still dirty tomorrow or the next day if I have time I'll have to give her a bath. I've never bathed a duck, but the Dawn dish soap commercials make it look easy. I guess just hold them in a shallow tub of water and soap them up. Except I don't want to strip the oils from her feathers, so I have to just wash her in water? I hope she learns to bathe herself in the next day or two... I can only imagine what Tony will say if he comes home to me giving a duck a bath in the kitchen sink. Come to think of it, I have no blow dryer to dry her off, which means putting her, sopping wet, back outside to fall in mud again. Not sure what I'll so with Peg-leg Sue, but I'll be keeping an eye on her.
I got all of the tomato plants that have been in my kitchen window transplanted into buckets and out in the yard (in the fenced area to protect them from the birds). That's 13 plants. Off the top of my head I know there were two Mule Team, two Mark Twain, one Dark Galaxy, one Cow's Tit, one Pink Sunshine, one Azoychka, one Kosovo, two Isis Candy, and I can't remember the other two. A nice selection anyway. These were the ones that came up from the seed started indoors with my rarer or lower inventory seeds.
I also got a chance to check out the colony babies closer today. I had the kids round them all up and I checked genders and photographed all the babies. There are nine in there; six bucks, two does, and the little one I still can't tell. Check out the new photos on the Rabbits page! Two have ears that are damaged, and one is missing half a back foot. This litter was really brutalized and I'm not sure why. I'm hoping this isn't a new trend. There was one with a nipped ear last litter. I wonder how the nest litter will do.
We still have one little duckling. It's mommas have seemed to abandon it. It wanders the yard following various other birds. Today he seemed to prefer the company of Phil, our little bantam cochin rooster. If ever the little duckling feels scared or alone, it cries out, and if Josh is within hearing distance he'll let out a call, and the duckling will run to him for a while. I have no idea how this poor bird is going to survive. It has no set flock, but manages to get by.
While I was out taking photos, I took the time to snap some gender photos on the baby bunnies and updated the Bunny FAQ page to also have a guide with photos on how to gender check a rabbit. I've found that a lot of people, including a few local rabbit breeders, don't even know how to properly gender check a juvenile rabbit! So, hopefully this blurb and photos will help someone out there.
Amanda's blog about everything, important and trivial.