Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More broody hens

The ladies are really thinking babies right now. We had TWO girls trying to hatch eggs in the stroller, often at the same time.

Here's one of them:

It was hysterical to see them in there, one on top of the other. One time, one had her wing over the other, like they were sisters, in this motherhood thing together. :-)

Unfortunately, hatching chicks in a stroller is not so great for chicks... nowhere to go to catch a breath of fresh air. Not to mention the fact that these hens weren't the most attentive moms and would hop off only to come back to an empty stroller thanks to the egg-stealing dogs. At last we took the hens out and folded up the stroller. This was not enough of a deterrence, as you can see:

The stroller is now in the barn and the hens are looking for other places to brood. There's one girl in the hen house that seems to have decided to send roots into the floor, so I suspect she's got babies on the mind.

I can understand the feeling; spring does make one long for something soft and little, doesn't it?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Chicks in the Barn

Yesterday morning all 10 chicks were still alive, but Mama Hen was pecking at them so they were keeping their distance most of the time. Here they all are in the dog house:

You can see one little cutie peeking out from under Mama's wing... that was not by choice, she was put there as an experiment. Eventually Mama pecked at her too, so she ran away.

My hope was that by today Mama would have accepted the babies as her own. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem to have, but the babies are doing fairly well nevertheless. We may have lost two, because this morning's count was 8. Most of them were out of the dog house running around the barn, so the lost two may have been hiding, or may have wandered out of the barn and been eaten. :-(

They are 2 weeks old and have enough feathers that they can fly short distances. They are so cute!

Stephen said, "I can just see it now. They get to be 4 weeks old (teenaged chickens), and they're gonna be saying 'You can't tell me what to do. You're not my REAL mother.' And the hen will say, 'Your REAL mother was just a hatchery egg laying tramp!'".

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Chick Saga

The chick who hatched died. Disappeared. Without a trace. So did all the eggs under the hen. We suspect the dogs.

The hen kept sitting, despite her lack of eggs and chicks, so today I went and bought 10 Araucana type chicks.

Remember how I said "No more livestock in the house"? Well....

Yup, back in the tub. Bit of a softie here.

Stephen moved the dog house the hen was nesting in into a dog-proof barn during the day, and after dark we went down there to slide the chicks under the hen. To our surprise she was gone. She had returned to the carport, under which (in that dog house, mind you) she had been hunkered down for a good month. So we plucked her sleepy hen self off the roost she'd not slept on for ages, brought her, and the 10 chicks, down to the barn, and tucked them in in the dog house.

During the walk in the big Rubbermaid tub she had already gathered 4 of them under her wings by the time we got to the barn, so I am hopeful.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Duck Update

The ducks are fully feathered out and quite pretty. We keep trying to get them to live at the pond, but they make their way back up to the house. So we are herding them down in the morning when we go to see the goats, and using the opportunity to have the goats eat away at the poison ivy around the pond. It's fun, actually. Never thought of myself as a duck herder, but I actually enjoy it!

Here they are the very first time they swam in the pond...

Thinking about it ("That's the biggest bowl of water I've ever seen!"):

Fully in and eating weeds ("Yum! Yum! Hey! My feet aren't touching ground! Hey! This is fun!"):

They have done a nice job cleaning up the weeds around the edge of the pond. This kind (Pekin) does not eat fish. Between the ducks and goats the pond is really tidying up. Now I've decided I want some sheep so I don't have to spend three evenings just to mow the area we currently consider our "yard"!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Baby Chick

One of the hens hatched out a chick today in the dog house. Very exciting for all of us!

Unfortunately the pictures came out really blurry:

Monday, May 16, 2005

Remembering Fred

Old Fred, my parents' elderly dog who came to live out his golden years on the farm, has left us. We believe he has died, but we are not completely sure. He disappeared two weeks and two days ago. We have seen no sign of him, and we have not found him in "doggie jail".

Fred came into my parents' life in dramatic fashion some 10 years ago. We were living with them as we transitioned from RI to TX, and with us had come our first baby, our lab mutt Lucy. Lucy was 4 at the time, and as I recall it happening, one weekend afternoon my father was sitting out on the porch reading the paper when Lucy started barking at the porch. Suddenly out from under the porch burst big fluffy Fred.

Fred hung around, despite being discouraged (especially by my dad), and eventually managed to worm his way into even Dad's dog-opposing heart. The vet figured he was quite a bit older than Lucy, that he had been well cared for at some point in his life, and that he had probably been abandoned. My parents' search for his owner was unsuccessful, and he became part of the family. He was named "Fred" at the suggestion of my parents' dear friends visiting from England. Apparently "Fred" is like the British equivalent of "Rover": a generic name for a dog.

Fred and Lucy fell in love. They were miserable when separated, which they usually were since not long after Fred appeared we moved 2 hours west of my parents. Eventually we decided that we'd all be happiest if Fred and Lucy lived together, so they began a nomadic life of visits with us and visits with my parents.

Fred had his share of adventure. We have no idea what kind of stories he'd have told of his life before my parents, but while in their care he was hit in their driveway by a visiting teenager backing a car out in the dark (broken leg) as well as attacked by something, the vets believe a cougar, that left him quite torn up. He had a lengthy recovery from both.

Lucy died a year and a half ago, at close to 14, and Fred was miserable. By then we owned some of our land but not the house, so we brought her body up here to bury in the pines. We brought Fred with us; it just seemed like the right thing to do. He didn't seem too affected by her body; he was almost disinterested. But when we got back to my parents' he fell into a long depression. He hardly ate anything for the first week. He would lie around and whimper; it was heartbreaking.

Fred was an old old dog. We don't know how old, but if he was even the same age as Lucy (and the vet thought he was older) he would have been 15 now. He had gone from jet black to quite grey in the face, had hip trouble and was a, well, very audible breather. When he came here in December, Molly was in heat and just about killed Fred with her constant demands for his attentions. He did his best, and in fact almost seemed to drop a few years thanks to Molly's birth by fire into the rigors of farm life. A lot is demanded of a farm dog... one must be fit, you know.

While he lived here he spent most of his time lying in the dirt or barking at cows. When he could get up from the dirt he would make his way to the pond for a swim sometimes, but mostly he liked to bark at cows. He was not the smartest dog, nor the sweetest smelling (in fact Fred had an odor problem that defied even my parents' local pet spa). But he was loyal and constant... the giver and receiver of much love over the years.

Thank you Fred. You were a good dog.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Singing the ineffable

It is impossible for me to convey the emotions I feel as I walk through our fields of flowers, picking deep black ripe dewberries while our goats and dogs run and roll and leap circles round me.

I have moments when the feelings are so overwhelming I have to stand still, then find myself gasping as my body realizes I haven't been breathing. Other times I catch myself staring at the animals with a goofy grin on my face. And tears, yes, tears.

Along with the now usual gift of an evening walk with the goats to pick dewberries, tonight I discovered a huge squash plant growing out of our compost (a "volunteer"). It is so big I can't imagine why I didn't notice it before. Tonight I saw it in an orange glow, as the sun set behind me... a glorious backdrop to grazing horses. A short while later, while cleaning out the truck (how is that small children can destroy order in any space so quickly?), I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye, and turning, I saw it again... my first firefly sighting on our farm.

What I realize is that it truly is impossible to convey the force of these emotions that surge so tangibly that I feel as if my chest is going to burst. The closest word I can come up with is joy. It is pure, completely without pretence. I can't paint a picture of how I feel, I can't tell you with mere words. Perhaps singing is the only way I can find to put it out there.

I find it interesting that I feel compelled to even TRY to put it out there. It feels like it doesn't belong to me, this exquisite experience. I feel as if I am in the presence of God, every second I walk on our land. I know I am in the presence of God all the time, why is it so much more obvious to me when I am out in our fields?

What would I sing? Would I sing of the changing colors of the flower blanket in our fields? Last week red and white, this week pink and yellow and fuschia. Each flower perfect, all the flowers together glorious...

Would I sing of my reluctant releasing of my desire to plant food for us this season, as I realized that learning to care for all these animals was already enough for this year... only to find unexpected bounty at every turn... berries, squash, wild onions, grapes...

Would I sing of how I always wanted to be a mother, and now in the middle of living it I am awed by the life that screams out of our two beautiful curly haired children; life that I helped bring forth but that is so far beyond me, so decidedly other, so forward moving, so precious...

Would it be about the ever changing sunset? The sound of hundreds of tree frogs wishing each other good night? The feel of warm eggs in my palm? The smell of the cat as I kiss her before sending her off with the advice "Go catch a mouse!"?

I don't know, I just don't. The list would go on and on... my dream of raising goats coming true; finding out that true love really exists, and finding it with the man I married; being able to give my friends fresh eggs and bouquets of wildflowers to take home after feeding them home-cooked food...

But those are all about me, and that's not my point.

I guess in the end, it would be a song of worship. And in a language I don't speak all that well yet, but I think I am being taught.

"Store Wars"

The folks who brought us The Meatrix have a new movie out! Store Wars is brilliant! Check it out and send it to all your friends.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Thirty Six... and More

36 chickens (and more) running around our house
36 eggs (and more) each week to eat and share
36 dewberries (and way more) ripe each day on our land
36 acres (plus 4) to wander through and marvel at
36 cow patties (and more) to weave around walking to the corral
36 splashes of water (and more) from happy happy ducks
36 hours a day (and more) of love needed by the dog
36 hugs a day (and more) from wild and muddy kids
36 close misses (and more) as the goats race to catch up with me
36 faster beats of my heart (and more) when I hear the pound of horse hooves gleefully galloping by in play
36 holes in boxes (and more) where Miss Kitty has chewed
36 kinds of wildflowers (and more) decorating the farm
36 kisses from my beloved (and more) soothe my heart

36 years of a joyful life behind me... and more to come...

I am 36 years old today, and it looks like this year is going to be the best yet!