Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Summer Half Over

And summer is half over.   The last time I posted was in April, and since then the typical summer things have transpired.

 I planted a garden and have harvested a few things, fought the bugs, and  marveled at how big some of the squash plants are getting.  My tomatoes are producing lots of green tomatoes, but some type of stink bug is sucking the juice out of them faster than they can ripen.

Peppers, Tomatoes, Squash & Cabbage from the garden
The weather has been pretty good (so far) this summer, although at the moment it is pretty warm.  We experienced the most lovely cool front last week that required a warm fuzzy blanket at night so that the cats and I might be toasty.  Now it is back to 'real' summer.  It's getting dry now so hoping we get some rain soon, before the pastures burn up.    

Fresh Black Prince Tomato, Yellow Cherry Tomato, & some refrigerator pickles Mom made
The aged and infirm in the sheep lot consist of three at the moment.  Well, there are more than three aged sheep but only three that are infirm at this moment.  Willow is 13 and moves slower these days, but is as independent as always.  Her son Callum, is 'only' 11 but he suffered a back injury as a youngster in his ram days, and it's catching up to him.  Big white sheep, Annalea has a gimpy front foot, but other than needing to be guarded at feeding time does okay.  Willow and Cal hang out together and move at the same speed.  They avoid the rambunctiousness of the other sheep and I separate them at  feeding time.  This hot weather is hard on them.


The sheep and I have finally worked out a mutually beneficial system on grazing the front area of my place.  If you remember they have been rather at loose ends since all the leader sheep died over the last few years.  I couldn't get them to calm down and stay in most of the areas on the front of my land without penning them tight.  And even if that worked, they would then refuse to enter the area the next time--contrary to popular belief they aren't stupid. (Now stubborn..yes)  It was a real battle and very frustrating.  However, the solution was happened on accidentally when I was late putting them out front one night to graze.  They seemed much more calm during that time, so now after all the chores are done and it's almost time to go in the house with the dogs, I will turn them on the front, while I'm giving Cal and Willow their evening meal.  I leave the gate open to the paddock and they graze up until dark and then go out again at first light.  They have kept the front 'mown' pretty well.  Not the short 'just so' cropped look from the lawnmower, but I like it.  It looks a bit messy but it's short and green and full of life--lots of little flowers everywhere.   I've mown it three times this summer and will do so again when we get a good rain, but this is lots less than if I had to keep it all short on my own. 

Millie Cuteness Overload
My sister got a puppy!  This is huge.  She has been dithering about getting a puppy for years.  Sweet little Millie joined the family a few months ago.   My sis has been dealing with all the 'stuff' that goes with an energetic pup, and it keeps her busy (and a little worn out).   Millie is cute as a button and is part Maltese and Shih-tzu--a MalShi, and was a pound puppy along with her siblings.  You can read more about Millie on here

Millie & her big Green Frog
 My nephew had a brain bleed at the end of May--he was only 36.  He is doing pretty good now, going to therapy three to four times a week.  It's been very hard on him and his wife and four children to adjust and cope with this in their lives.  It was a sad and scary time and we were all happy to be able to celebrate his 37th birthday with him on July 4th.   His therapy will end sometime in August and hopefully he will be released to drive and also to go back to work.

Cleanup on the hen house has finally been accomplished.  It was a hot nasty, NASTY, job, but the worst of it is done.  I'd let things go over the last few years with only a few hens so there was layer of about four to six inches of very dry chicken litter on the floor.  I got that all shoveled and swept out (that sounds so quick and easy...) while wearing a mask.  Then I hosed everything down inside, but since it didn't drain as well as I expected it turned into some drama and  hard work getting the water out.  It needs another rinse off, but we will see.  Now I need to do some repairs around the outside edges  and install new nest boxes, and fix the roosts...and, AND....get some new chickens!  I'm kinda excited about that.  Ready for fresh eggs, and I miss seeing their little bobbing shapes around the pasture, not to mention their role as scrap disposal systems.  I only plan to get about six hens, or so and would like to get young adults.   

There is a new stray cat.  I'm pretty sure it's a young tom.  It took a little while to figure out there was a new cat in town as he looks an awful lot like my two elderly outside girl cats.  Only they are more portly.  He comes up every night and talks to the cats in the catio, and that was what gave him away.  My girls talk but it's more a screamy meow, and his is rather a melodic mewmewmew.  So anyway, he has a date with the live trap and a trip to the vet for tutoring, then I guess I'll just release him and if he wants to stop in and eat he can.  Not really needing anymore kitty residents.  I don't think he is very wild but he is spooked.  I suspect he was dumped.   He is a beautiful silver grey and if I could find a farm home for him I'd be pleased!  Only this isn't the worst of it in the cat news.  There is a kitten.


One very sad misused kitty

First Meal at Hotel Paradise--he was thin and scraggly looking
Lip Smacking Good seemed to be the verdict
A week later and Ashley is consoling him--you can see the 'oddness' about his rear hip and leg
Seems my vehicle here on the parking lot at work was chosen by a wee kitten to lay near enough by to be noticed.  I'll also point out there were many vehicles and people on the lot that day.  Many.  I was leaving for the day and I did not see the kitten laying there in the grass against an old garage.   Seriously I try not to look around too much anymore.  However a weak, desperate meow did get my attention.  And again, until I saw it there.  I tried to leave.  Got it some treats out of the truck to give it, but no way could I bring it home.  It was so thin and dehydrated that it couldn't eat the treats, couldn't hardly even get up.   So I picked it up, tried to fob it off on another employee then put it down on the seat beside me and went home.   I had a little water bottle and poured some in the cap for it to drink and it was very thirsty.  It looked like a little girl to me.  The next day I got it worked into the vet after I got off work.  By then I knew that something was wrong with it---something in it's hips or back.  It could wobble around but was very unsteady on it's legs.

Feeling better but still favoring the leg --you can see how he sticks it straight out

Off to the vet yet again.....

Off to the vet we went the next day.  Without expensive tests and x-rays nothing obvious presented itself, but the vet's best guess was either a  fractured pelvis or some nerve/ligament damage.  He was also concerned that some of it's organs had been displaced and herniated, but everything 'sounded' good in the lungs and heart.  So back home we went with predisone and 'bed rest' instructions.   The next day he took a turn for the worse (yes, it was a he) or I thought he did.  Because it was so intensely hot I gave in when the vet discussed keeping him for observation and anti inflammatory injections over the next several days.  He was much perkier by Monday.  Now three weeks later he is more steady on his feet and the 'problem' seems to be located in the right hip area. He does well until he gets tired then you can tell it bothers him.  I am keeping him confined in a dog crate in the breezeway during the day and he has a small exercise  pen set up under the tree that he goes into before and after I get home from work for some change of scenery.  I also let him follow me around the yard for a short time in the evening. (edited to add:  he is loose in the yard when I'm home now)  He isn't as energetic as most kittens his age, but he is coping and hopefully will heal --the vet thought thirty days of restricted movement would be beneficial.  He was only about seven weeks when I found him.  Our best guess is he probably got thrown from a vehicle that he hitched a ride on...but we'll never know for sure.    Now he needs to go back for shots soon (edited:  he had those this past weekend) as they felt he was too young and weak the first time around.  I have a lead on a possible home for him, but have to have assurance that he is wanted before we proceed.  I will also keep him until he is hopefully better. (edited again:  possible home has never gotten back with me...)  He is very cute as all kittens are, but I cannot offer him much here.   He would be an outside kitty in an unsafe environment, albeit well fed and loved.  Praying for a home for him!   His temporary name is Tang and he is a very self assured young kitten and I think he will have a ton of personality.



Tang--Looking Better

Last night I was thinking that it would soon be time to get the wood supply ordered for winter, not to mention the hay.  It's been a strange year for hay--it was cool and wet for many days and so the first cut got delayed.  Yet, we never really got any good long soaking rains.  Just days of drizzle and clouds.   The ground is very dry and it doesn't take much to bake it.    I'm hoping though that we get some good rains as farmers are finally getting their first crop off the field and there should be time for a second cutting provided we get some moisture.   It's hard to think about winter... the older I get the less I cope with cold and inclement weather and having to drive on slick roads.  (especially the latter!)

Making himself to home on one of the many outside cat bed/nooks--needs lots of naps
But we still have some time to go before then.   There will be lots of hot summery days still when I will probably be hoping for winter.  

Collie Carpet--Minty, Ashley & Carly's favorite place to spend a hot day (inside in the AC!)

I guess that is it for now.  Hope you are having a good summer in your neighborhood!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Sue

I started this story quite some time ago and neglected to finish it and post it.

Sue living large in the yard as Eddie's wife
One little hen passed this week--unknown to the world, but special to the farm.  Sue had been a steady resident here for 11years and I do miss her presence.

Sue --you really think you can make me go up??
In July of 2002 (the 3rd to be exact) an emergency run was made to nearby Cackle Hatchery.   A determined hen of a non-setting breed-- Black Sex-Link--had hatched a chick.  A chick.  One.   This couldn't be, as life is easier when you are a chicken  if you have a big brood to run with.  In order for "Oney" to have any hope of being a raised a well-adjusted chicken I had to get her some siblings!   Luck was with me when I arrived on 'hatching day' at the hatchery and found a brood of available Ameracaunas.    I had them pick me out 12 day old hen chicks---and they threw in an extra, so off home I went to add the chicks under the hen after dark and expand Oney's family.  The hen agreed to her larger family and went about raising them.  One little chick died the next day but the other 13 thrived and grew.  The hen quickly became tired of them and as soon as they had feathers she was so out of there.  Of the 13 one of the purchased chicks was a rooster--the lovely King of The Barnyard in latter years.  The rest were a lively bunch of hens with the then unnamed and unremarkable Sue included.

Those were one of the most scatter brained bunch of young chickens I have ever seen.  Probably because there were so many that the older hens couldn't knock any sense into them.  Penning them up for the night was always an adventure.  Thankfully as they grew older they gradually got some sense, but it was a long hard haul there for awhile.  They were also the last large brood I raised here---the following year there were a few more hatched and that was that.

The flock a few years ago .  Sue is second from right--the Other Grey Hen is on the right and the Black Hen...oh, well you know where she is....
Sue's first years were uneventful in that large healthy flock of young chickens, but as they began to get older the rooster took a terrible dislike to her and used every opportunity to peck her within an inch of her life.  While scraggly looking and always looking over her shoulder she remained un-bowed.

Then fate struck her another blow---bumblefoot.  She was now crippled and still on the rooster's 'list'.  It didn't take long and unfortunately I was slow to realize what was happening,  but the tides had turned and Sue was in bad shape.  With her sore foot, the rooster could now catch her and peck her,  which led to the rest of the flock turning on her.  I came home one evening to a huddled bloodied grey form in the corner of the paddock.

Immediately she was removed from the general population, her wounds and foot tended to and placed in a cage in the breezeway.  She slowly grew stronger and I pondered what to do with her.  Her foot was not going to allow her to be fleet enough to live with the rest of the chickens.  Then it dawned on me that perhaps she could live with Eddie, my crippled rooster who also lived in a cage in the yard.  For more of their introduction and life together you can click on Eddie's Story.   This is when that plain grey hen became Sue.  My best friend's parents are named Eddie and Sue, so when I added the grey hen to Eddie's 'flock' it just rolled off the tongue, and so Sue was christened.

After Eddie and Sue had a rousing knock down drag out fight --or as rousing as a legless rooster and crippled hen could pull off--they settled in to living a happy quiet little chicken life.  At that time I had my sweet collie girls--Jody and Ariel who were in the fenced yard all day with the two chickens.  In the morning I would turn Eddie and Sue out and Eddie would generally hop out and putter around near the cage all day, whereas Sue would roam the extent of the yard.  Eddie would worry about her, but she would periodically stop back in to say 'hey' to him.   She was the dickens to catch up at night, because she would fade into the bushes or garden and I wouldn't be able to find her.  Seldom did she ever make it easy to pen them up!

At one time she got very attached to Ariel and started following her everywhere--Eddie wasn't amused, Ariel wasn't amused and I wasn't amused--especially when she would leave her chicken droppings inside the breezeway on the dog beds!  Admittedly it was pretty funny to see her just hanging out with the dogs.

Eventually Boone, my big mastiff joined the brood and I had to end up fencing and dividing half the yard.  Chickens in one area, dogs in another, because Boone was no mild manner collie and would have had chicken for supper with no regrets.

Sue didn't much like it, but she adapted--she always adapted, and Eddie was happier where he could keep her in his sights all day.  Then tragedy befell the little couple and Eddie became ill and died within in a few days.  Now Sue was alone--no Eddie and no dogs she could follow about.  It was okay for awhile, but Sue got sadder and sadder.  I thought about bringing another hen to the yard, but the logistics of dogs and chickens sharing the yard were getting harder and harder.

Then I came home and found Sue at the back fence --gazing longingly at the hated flock of chickens from whence  she had come.  The flock was smaller due to attrition, but still I hesitated about putting her back, since the same rooster was still in command.

Eventually though I did.  First in a cage in the hen house for a week, then finally out with the main flock.  It wasn't easy, and Sue was definitely treated as an outcast at first.  The rooster still wanted to kill her, but he was older and she was in  healthy shape so she ran fast and got away most of the time.  She seemed happy to be back in with chickens--even hateful ones.    In time she hung around with her grey sister and did okay.  The rooster would still catch her out sometimes and peck her head unmercifully--especially in the Spring, but I would treat her wounds and off she would go.

She had the last laugh anyway--she survived her brother by a year and had a very pleasant time in her final and full retirement.  With only three hens left in the flock there was allot of pottering around, sunning and just hanging out.  It did my heart good to see Sue swaying about  her business.  She always knew I'd give her special treats and protect her, and although she wasn't a 'pet' chicken, she was a smart chicken and enjoyed her special status.

Sue is survived by her sister--the Other Grey Hen and her niece--the ailing Black Hen.  Good bye my little feathered friend, your grace under fire always impressed me and I will miss your little grey ghostie form going about your important chicken business. 

And the long reign of this flock slowly comes to a close and I worry that one will outlive the other and then what to do?

I wrote this post after Sue died and never got around to publishing it.   Now several months later and the last sentence of my post proved prophetic.  The Black Hen died only a few weeks after Sue.  She was the youngest of the lot but began to ail and died a short time later.  This left the Other Grey Hen as an 'only'.   It was very sad.  First she freaked out and was very distraught for a couple of days.  She was flockless and knew that wasn't a good situation.  However after the first week she began to settle down and seemed to do okay.  She didn't stray far from the hen house, and tended to hang out with the sheep when she did.   I fixed a box full of straw and on really cold nights I would tuck her in and close the lid and she seemed to handle the cold okay.  She looked healthy and appeared content.  I debated on getting an older hen off craigslist, but knowing chickens it would have been ugly and at 11 she probably wold have gotten the worst of the deal.  (After all 'old' chickens on craigslist tend to be only 2 or 3).   Then one crisp but not deadly cold night in February the Other Grey Hen died. For the first time in 27 years, there were no chickens pottering about the little farm.   Suddenly I didn't have to worry 'did I shut the henhouse door' at all hours of the night.  No working my schedule on being around to 'put up the chickens' in the evening.  It was quite odd.  Will I get more chickens, so I can rearrange my schedule and worry myself crazy?  You betcha.   Now I just have to decide what kind and how many... 
 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Crossing To The Dark Side...

Well ya'll know how I feel about books if you've been following this blog very long.  I love them.  Love to read, love to see them, love to smell them.  I have lots of books.  Lots and lots.

And I swore I would never, ever, ever, ever get a Kindle and read an electronic book.  It was just a bizarre concept in my eyes.

So then I turned 21 (since my sister just turned 29 (again) I can only be 21, right?    For  my 'big --0 birthday' in December my sister and niece teamed up to destroy my vow of no kindling.  They gave me my very own little Kindle.   I don't really think that was their motive, but there you have it. 

And I was delighted.   I would never ever ever ever buy one for myself (really) but hey, how could I say no to a GIFT.  So the minute I got home I forced myself to turn it on and download my info and start reading.  Well... maybe it didn't happen that fast, but the truth isn't too far from that. 

See the really big exciting thing is that you can get books free--or very low cost.  I'm a picky reader.  There are things I like and things I don't.  Usually if it's a 'popular to the masses' book I don't even bother anymore because I find them dull.  With the Kindle I can hop and shop around, try many, many authors and books on a myriad of subjects.

There was a problem though.  I hated holding that slim little gadget in my hands.  It was awkward and certainly did not feel right.  Then there was the issue of reading at night after I got into bed.  Once upon a time I could read all night, but now, I'm lucky if I last a half hour....and I don't nod off gracefully.  I (usually) end up dozing off and invariably throw the book up in the air, or occasionally let it slide off the bed to the floor.  Real books don't break....Kindles do, so I was uneasy about that.

It probably would have been easier to buy a Kindle cover, but hey, that would be too simple (and expensive), so I thought and thought and decided to make one. First I tried to hollow out an old blank journal book and that took forever and was awful looking.  For take two I found an old leather look vinyl Journal cover (that you could slide the paper tablets into), which was absolutely the perfect size.  It also had a slide in tab flap you could close it with.  I removed the paper, bought some small black elastic, rummaged around and found a nice piece of gold colored corduroy and some fabric glue and was ready to assemble.  It actually went together pretty smooth and when I was done, I had a thin nice looking case for my Kindle.  It looks homemade when you look close, but it's durable and I like it.   I slipped the Kindle into the four pieces of elastic on the corners and there it has stayed since.  Now I have the feel of a book when I'm reading and the Kindle is protected from 'the elements' of day to day life. (cats)

As I've mentioned I love the fact of having unlimited access to various authors and books.  Plus it is easy to slip it in my purse and carry with me.   I  have the paper white (I think that is right) version so it is like reading a book and not a computer screen, and I really appreciate that.  There is also the anticipation of finding a 'new' author that I will really love. 

And that thing stays charged up forever, unlike the usual three hours for the laptop.  I mean days and days. 

There are some things I don't like about it as well.  I still find it awkward to read--because even though it has a percentage read bar it still isn't like holding a book and visually being able to see how much is left of the book--always an exciting thing.  I still struggle with this aspect of it and the small page size bothers me.

My biggest dislike though is that there are allot of people out there who really really should not be publishing their work.  They are considered 'indie publishers'.   Some really can't write --even if they have a great idea--but many of them just need a good proofreader and don't even bother to have that done.  Some of them are truly atrocious.  I'm not a terrible stickler for everything being all proper sentence structure, but it does bother me to see misspelled words and improper usage of words.   I also get royally ticked off if they haven't done their research or they lose the continuity of key story lines and end up contradicting themselves.  And you really can't decide much based on reviews.  Sometimes I'm wondering if we are reading the same stuff.   At times it can be hard to wade through the 100s of books listed to find something that appeals.   Many authors let you read a sample though and I've started doing that before deciding to spend time on reading the whole thing.  I've deleted many --but hey, easy come easy go.

I'll never give up my books.   I still like the visual and the feel of 'real' books, but the Kindle has become a handy little tool in my voracious book reading habit.

Thanks T & T for dragging me kicking and screaming into the 'modern' world.


  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cooking Away

I've been using my new stove allot this long, long, long winter.   I love it.  It doesn't look quite as shiny and new anymore, but oh, how she cooks!

Bread, pizzas, desserts, casseroles....oh my......



Country White Bread



Chicken Noodle Casserole with a bit of sour cream added....ooooolala....

Bacon-Chicken-Ranch Pizza!

More Bacon-Chicken-Ranch Pizza--Personal Pan Size

Yum
I've been using my bread machine to make dough for two loaves of bread a week and then baking it in the oven.   Rotating half wheat/half white and 'Country White' to keep it interesting.  The pizzas were made in my cast iron skillets--two personal pan size and one eight inch.  Getting re-acquainted with cast iron cooking--it's a bit of a learning curve but so far so good.    I share the eats with my folks, since it's pretty hard to cook for just one.

Come summer there won't be as much cookin' going on I'm sure but it's fun while it lasts!   

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Winter's Last Gasp....

...or is it?    This wicked winter clings on with long boney icy fingers.  I think everyone is tired of it.

Although I admire a good fire, by this time of the year it's getting old. 

Saturday we had the most pleasant of days.  Almost 70 with sunshine.  I worked at preparing garden beds, and the dreaded chore of cleaning out the inside stove pipes again.

Here I sat basking in the sun just the day before....
I let the sheep out on the front for a brief time for their first taste of grass and freedom since last fall.  They look as I feel--dirty, dingy with strings of wool trailing about and overgrown toenails.  Well, maybe not the trailing wool or overgrown toenails for me...   Ready to throw off the ill used trappings of this long season.  For the sheep that will come in mid-April on shearing day.  For me, I'm already thinking about packing away the winter togs, but know it is not reasonable yet.  

These Grackles & Blackbirds (plus a hundred or so Robins) were caught by the nasty turn in the weather
The weather prediction for Sunday was not bright and sunny, so I hauled in extra wood on Saturday 'just in case'.  I fired up the stove again late Saturday afternoon and admired it's clean bright flame....hoping that soon it would not be needed.

The Sheep huddled in their barn avoiding the sleet and high winds
Saturday night a storm came blowing in.  It rained and the wind blew and as morning dawned the rain started to freeze a little around the edges, then the sleet came in blowing sideways.  The wind would knock your breath away and drive the sleet pellets into your face.  It was nasty.  The roads got pretty slick for awhile before the snow came.  The temperatures hovered in the 20s for the day and the snow fell steady until late afternoon.   The night bottomed out with temperatures in the teens and the whole mess of it was literally a slap in the face.

I think Ashley's face says it all regarding her opinion of the weather! 
Since we had such a warm day on Saturday the snow didn't stick to the roads or paths and quickly melted the next day except for a few lingering patches in the shade.

Carly preparing to sass me, the weather and the world
This week promises to be nice---a dip in temperatures for Wednesday but only in the 'normal' range.  The rain that fell has the grass already greening up and trying to grow.  The sheep are anxious for grass  and we'd all be happy if we were done with feeding hay.  

Minty (always) poses pretty for the camera
Spring is upon us.  Isn't it?

Sage says ho..hum...what happened to our warm sunny catio days?



Yes, bud, I feel exactly this way about it too....



Hope the weather is stabilizing wherever you may be!



Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Happy Third Birthday Puppies!

Exhausted  new little family (Minty in the middle & Carly to the front right)
Three years old today.   Four little girl puppies made their appearance throughout that long long day.  Minty and Carly were the last two and were born within a half hour of each other.  Their sisters were hours older than they and Ashley was worn out.   

How the time has flown --my little puppies are already three years old, their mommy eight.  I didn't need three collies but they have blessed my life everyday.  All three different in their quirks and personalities but all three loving and devoted.  Smart as whips, but sometimes deaf, they keep me on my toes.  They make me laugh and smile and sometimes drive me a little crazy with their antics. 

I wouldn't have missed living in a collie pack for anything.  Happy birthday Puppies and Momma too!  (Hamburgers all around tonight!)

Learning to walk--Tempe supervising (Carly and Minty on the right)

Pile of puppies and kitties too...

  
Carly & Minty doing what they still do best--playing tug of war

Fuzzy little puppers

Minty, Numy (their sister), Ashley & Carly
Opening presenters from a fellow blogger
Sisters

Carly & Tempe laying on the cat beds
 
Ashley (left) & 'baby' Carly

Beautiful Momma Ashley


Minty (and stick)


Carly
 
My companions--spending a cold winters day surrounding their person

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Minty says Merry Collie Christmas!
 Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!   I had stories to tell and pictures to post, but time ran away from me.   So here are a few pictures of our ice storm---which thankfully didn't cause much damage and no power outages and was outstandingly beautiful.  The trees were quite festive for the Christmas season and with the cold temperatures the ice has stuck around.  

If you'd like to read a couple of cute stories you can go to my sister's blog, Ruralhood and see a picture of me in my go-go boots and short short dress!   She has posted a couple of childhood stories, and I'm the little sister in the first one.  You decide--was it Santa or the Frisky the Cat?



Have a great day!