Saturday, May 31, 2008

Zorro, Hermie and the Stew Brothers

Hey guys, are you sure it's safe to go out there?

Sure it's safe! Look there's a clod of grass, woo hoo! Come on everybody, let's go!

Uh, does anyone else get the feeling like we're being watched?

Chickens? I thought it was my new dog house? You put chickens in my new dog house?

O-M-G! Nobody move!!! Pretend you're invisible!

Whew! Good thing you showed up, Mom. We were almost eaten by a big, scary fur monster! And it had huge scary teeth. And, and...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Girls, Girls, Girls!

The post office called at 7:15 this morning and said "Your baby chicks are here. You can come and get them before we open if you'd like." Which is the polite way of saying "Get your butt up here and get these peeping things outta here they're driving us nuts."

So we headed to town and fetched our peeping package. Aren't they just the cutest? The hatchery even threw in an extra, so there are sixteen of them. They all seem healthy as can be, not a droopy chick in the bunch.

Which, if they all survive, will make things interesting as I'm already running out of lap.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What's Bloomin'?

Iris, lots and lots of Iris. So many of the heirloom variety that they're not even trying to deliver the newspaper in the box any more. They just leave it near the flower bed in the yard. I love old fashioned Iris, particularly if they surround a mailbox. Mom had some around hers at the old farmhouse so I guess that must be why it just seems right to me.

This yellow variety is pretty too. You can certainly see it from a distance. I have two bunches of these that I didn't realize were this color until this year. They had almost been overtaken by weeds the year before we moved in.
Mix in a few of these and it's stunning.

But I have to say, I really love these two. All that digging and replanting last year was worth it.

The unusual color of this one will stop you in your tracks.

What's blooming in your garden?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Movin' On Up

Our fat bottom girls will be arriving on Friday, er perhaps I should call them full-figured. Technically they're called heavies. I don't think that sounds very flattering though, I certainly don't want to be called a heavy. Anyway, they will be nice, big, robust birds that can handle the cold winters here. To accommodate the pleasingly plump gals we need a sturdy roost. One with wide enough perches so they can sit on their feet and prevent frost bitten toes.

But I also need to be able to easily clean under the roosts since that's where most of the droppings will end up. The engineer came up with this clever idea. Viola!

Saturday night was predator check night. We left a can of open tuna in the hen house. It made it through the night unscathed so we decided it was safe enough for our motley crew to move in.

The new roost seems to meet their satisfaction.

Food is suspended from the ceiling at the right height. This will help keep them from slinging it all over the floor.

Water checks out, too.

They found the shavings board to be fascinating. It slides into a groove in front of the door to keep the shavings from falling out when the door is opened but can be removed when I want to clean the coop.

They have so much more room to run around I think it will cut down on the fighting.

Or not.

Zorro, the somewhat fearless leader, seems to think it will do.

"Thanks for the pad, Dad."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beware of Chicken

Handling livestock can be dangerous. Bulls come to mind when I think of dangerous livestock. Horned goats even. But chickens?

Hermie the Early Bird secured his place in the flock by insisting he is a lap chicken. He's always the first in line wanting to be picked up. He loves to be loved. He's a love bird. He snuggles on your lap and even wags his tail. Pet him all afternoon or carry him around, he doesn't mind. Because of his affectionate nature we've certainly not been afraid of him. Until today.

Just seconds after this picture was taken, my son was holding Hermie a little closely. It seems the kid's fluttering eyelashes were too much for Hermie to resist. The love bird reached out and pecked him right in the eye. Amazingly, the kid didn't even drop the bird. I suspect I would have thrown the beast to the ground. But he just covered his eye with his other hand and said "Take Hermie, take Hermie."

Scared the daylights outta me. I mean that had to hurt. Luckily after a short session with a cold compress he was up and running again. I was fully prepared though for a run to the hospital. Not sure what they would do for a pecked eye, but I was prepared. Tonight there is a red spot on the white of his eye, he says he can feel it. Well, yeah! You got pecked in the eye by a chicken, I imagine it will be sore for a few days.

This afternoon, while we were having our what-did-we-learn-today review, the kid's response was "Don't hold Hermie closer than his neck can reach" and "Always wear your glasses." In Hermie's defense, I'm sure those fluttering eyelashes looked an awful lot like a bug. So we're still keeping him. But if you visit, we'll have safety glasses handy just in case.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Country Garden

Herbs growing in buckets and old wooden boxes on abandoned porch steps.

Impatiens planted in an old metal cart.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that in a whiskey barrel under the old well pump.

Lantana in a big old drainage tile.

Leftover impatiens in the cream separator.

Tomatoes and peppers tucked in with the landscaping.

And a whole lot of work left to do.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Meanwhile, Back in the Hen House

We've been busy trying to finish things up and move the delinquents in. I've been painting trim and fence posts, the engineer finished the walls and hung the sliding door that separates the two spaces. It was a leftover from a remodeling project at our last house.

Lance Armstrong, er I mean my brother, stopped by Saturday. After gallivanting around the countryside on his bike we made him help move the cabinets into the storage side. We always make him move something when he stops by. It's a family tradition. Anyway, these will be great for storing feed, egg cartons, garden tools, etc. I had the guys leave the upper cabinets resting on the bottoms so I could store bales of bedding on top. Turned out to be the perfect size.

This is the third use for these old cabinets. They were in the kitchen here at one time, then moved to the workshop for many years. We can't get rid of them. How would I ever know what to use to make my own household cleaners? Did you know you could use ketchup to clean brass? I had no idea. My brass has been sitting around unpolished all these years. Hee, hee, ho, ho, ha, ha. Okay, I confess, I got rid of anything that needed polishing years ago.

There are as many ways to make a chicken door as there are chickens. We're still not sure what we're doing, but we got started on it anyway. The problem is racoons. Those darn thumbs of theirs make them extreamly efficient burglars. They can break, enter, have a snack and be gone before you ever knew they were there. Just watch, we'll end up with eighteen different locks on that wee little chicken door by the end of the summer.

Now that this project is starting to look like it may actually end soon, naturally I feel the need to look for another one. This looks like the makings of a turkey pen doesn't it?

I had friends who used to name their 4-H cows Hamburger and Steak every year. I'd name my turkeys Pilgrim and Mistletoe. Assuming I could talk Mr. Grumpy Gills into letting me have some.

Friday, May 16, 2008

No Happily Ever After

After deciding the pooch on my porch was merely scared by my dogs and so was trying to be as mean as he could be to get rid of them, I filled a water bowl and carefully placed it on the end of the porch. I didn't get too close in case he really was Cujo. He stayed on the mat, but I could see a slight wagging of his tale. I think his infected eye made him seem scarier than he really was. So I headed back inside to watch him from the window. He cautiously wandered over to the bowl and had almost reached it when a large truck came barreling down the road sending the pooch back to the mat where he stayed.

I could tell by his size he needed a meal. By this point my overwhelming anger for his moronic previous owners was starting to wain and I was starting to feel more and more sorry for him. So I did exactly what you're not supposed to do if you don't want to keep a stray. I took him a bowl of food. This time I placed it a little closer to him. A bigger wag of the tail followed. I moved the water a little closer. He was still staying on the mat. Why wouldn't he? The last human he had come in contact with threw him out of a car. But that tail wagged a little more.

Dumb dog had me at that point. Now I really felt bad for him. So I backed away, went inside and watched from the window. He devoured the food, and then lied down on the mat to rest. He looked exhausted. So I left him alone and he stayed there for a few hours. Finally, I decided I needed to figure out a way to try to befriend this animal. If I couldn't befriend him, I'd have to call animal control at noon. My dogs were getting tired of being cooped up on the back porch.

Heading back out with a pocket full of treats, I was able to get much closer this time. He almost came close enough to take it from my hand. He really needed some medical attention for that eye. Poor thing. I decided then to head back inside and start getting things ready to go to town. I'd need more treats to lure him into the vehicle for sure. But when I went back outside, he was gone.

We searched and searched, but he had just disappeared. I kept watching out the windows all day, hoping he would return. I even left the water bowl out there. I felt sure the dogs barking probably just spooked him and he'd be back when he got hungry again. But there's been no sign of him. He's gone. I hope for his sake he finds someone else who will fall for him as quickly as I did.

Good luck little fella.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

BEYOND Furious

Dear Moron,

I heard your car door last night. Unfortunately, I didn't realize you were leaving us a surprise package. So your package spent the night on the porch. It wasn't until my dogs found it this morning that I even knew it was there.

It's now terrified to leave the porch. Afraid it will either be hit by a car or attacked by dogs that actually do live here. The fact that it's terrified doesn't make it seem very friendly. Not a bonus if you were hoping we would keep it.

I can only assume since it has a severe eye infection you want me to take it to see a vet. You must not have been able to afford it given that it looks like you could barely manage to buy dog food. I doubt you bothered to have it neutered or make sure it's shots were up to date, either. So my dogs, kid and myself are shut up inside our house now, afraid of your surprise package. Again not a bonus.

It was awful nice of you to chose a Thursday to drop it off, knowing that animal control is closed until noon. You must have been thinking that would give us a chance to bond with your lab/basset hound mix. Just because you had the romantic notion that a big old farmhouse would be a wonderful place for your dog to live out it's days does not mean the people who live there want your dog. Most folks out here would shoot first and ask questions later. It's our right to protect our family, pets and livestock.

How did you sleep last night after you dumped him off? Did you feel better thinking those nice people will take care of him? Did you bother worrying that he might get hit by a car? Or are you so cold and cruel that you just didn't give a damn?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


They're a bunch of stinkin' boys! Now that the chicks are four weeks old it seems we were a little off on the whole sex prediction thing. I'm almost sure now that we have five roosters and two hens. I'm not amused. But it does explain all the ruckus. WAY too much testosterone for one pen. Hermie the Early Bird is appropriately named after all, Socrates can stay the same, but Mary is going to have to be called Harry. That is until we find new homes for them. Anybody need a 4H project?

Monday, May 12, 2008

I Don't Like Spiders or Snakes

I tried to get caught up on my gardening this afternoon. Started out okay. I was making progress with the weed patch that I'm planning to stick a few tomato plants in. Then it became rather apparent that I'd stumbled upon a spider's nest. Oodles of spiders.

Generally, I'm a nature lover. I've been around nature and animals all my life. As a kid when we had a spider in the house my Dad would just say "Oh, that's just George" and the darn thing became a pet for a day. I was the girl at camp that rounded up the daddy long legs and tossed them out of the tent while the rest of campers screamed and pointed at them from their bunks. It was just a spider. I thought those girls were insane.

That is until a couple of years ago. It was late. I couldn't sleep. I was in our attached garage at our last home. A HUGE brown hairy spider came running across the concrete floor straight at me. I said I was a nature lover, but I'm not crazy. I grabbed my son's shoe and gave it a whack. This is where my world changed. When I whacked that huge honkin' sucker a BILLION little baby spiders came scurrying out all over the place. Yeah, I'll pause here for a minute while you recoil from your computer screen...

Nice huh? Well, after I completely LOST IT, I gathered my senses enough to go grab a can of insecticide. I can safely surmise that there won't be another living spider in that garage for 20 years. I nuked the place.

So my gardening experience today brought back some of those butt-clenching tingly feelings. Yet I persevered and manged to get all the weeds pulled from the area with the help of the kid. While we were pulling weeds he looked at me and said "Did you hear that?" I replied "Hear what?" We paused and didn't hear anything.

Do you see where this is going?

So after carting an entire wheelbarrow full of weeds to our mountain o' rubbish, I returned to the weeded area to pick up my tools. I nearly put my eye out with that miniature hoe thingy when I saw the bleeping snake. I screamed like a school girl. The kid opened the window from inside the house and asked "What was that?" I managed to spit out, "Oh, just a snake." He said "Do you want me to come out and get it?" I responded, "Um, no that's not necessary. I'm so DONE for today."

The wheelbarrow and tools are still out there.

Inside the Hen Hilton...

there will be two separate suites. One 10'x 10' area for the more robust clientele and a smaller 6'x10' maids closet that can double as temporary housing for young, unruly adolescent party types.

The architect and construction manager have considered all the necessary safety precautions. Given that the guests are about as smart as Paris herself, the insulation needs to be covered so they won't peck at it, eat it and die. Industry experts report that the guests won't be able to scale the ceiling so that portion of the suite can remain exposed to give it a bit of the industrial loft look that's so chic right now. The interior designer has a sliding flat-panel door planned to separate the two spaces. The large vent openings in the ceiling will get edgy, heavy-duty wire covers fashioned for them in addition to screens for the windows.

We anticipate construction to be complete and ready for guests by the end of the month. Rumor has it there will be a new group of young, adolescent party girls arriving at the estate on the 30th.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Teenage Mutant Ninja Chickens

We're going through a bit of an awkward phase. We look like we're recovering from a bout of chemo but really we're just testing out our goth look. Our favorite pastime now is sparring. When we're not practicing our fancy ninja moves we like to buck the establishment by kicking wood shavings into our water dish. We live to kick shavings into the water dish! We love to kick over the feeder too. That's soooo much fun!

Every once in awhile meal worms will appear on a plate. We didn't understand it at first, but now that we've caught on it pretty much a bloodbath to see who gets them. Playing keep away is fun too.
We're learning how to use the perch. We're also learning how to kick the others off the perch. She with the strongest peck wins in the game of perch. Well, all games for that matter.

We've got some teenage 'tude going on that's for sure.
What you lookin' at? You wanna piece a me?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Riot in Cell Block II

Overcrowding. It's a problem not exclusive to prisons. Put a flock of teenage chickens in the same situation and you get about the same result. Yesterday we had hourly riots. Fights were breaking out, feeders being overturned, it was mass chaos. We had to do something. Of course, releasing them on their own recognisance wasn't an option. So we banged together a new cell block for them last night after dinner.

Made from an old flat panel door and some leftovers from the coop siding, it's simply screwed together so it can be dismantled and stored in the barn when the punks move on from juvenile hall to the big house. The clamps on the lid keep the guard dogs from frolicking with the inmates.

The new digs come with all the latest amenities. Food, water, a place to scratch and even a new little training roost. Everything a delinquent chicken could ever need.

There's even enough room for them to run laps. You can see Hawkey below, the one at the bottom, doing just that at full speed. Okay, so you can't see it in the photo, but I did. It was almost like he was saying, "Yeah, I'm bad, look how fast I can run." Then he would run over to Zorro at the water fountain and get all up in his face, dancing like a boxer. Pecking order will soon be established, no doubt. Gangs will be formed. Turf wars will ensue.

So now that the current riot situation is under control, I have to spend the rest of this day working on the maximum security facility. I'm starting to think I may need to figure out how to install bars on the windows and separate living quarters.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Poultry Palace Express

These guys are growing faster than the weeds in my garden. And let me tell ya, those weeds are out of control. If they keep this up they'll outgrow their brooder by the end of this week.

So we've had to put the work on the poultry palace in overdrive. This week the exterior received another coat of paint and the engineer finished building the window frames. Saturday, during a wind storm, we installed the doors and windows. Have you ever installed a door during a windstorm? No? Well then you have not lived.

I installed the stick on tiles today. Grandma wouldn't have had them in her hen house, but we've learned a lot about sanitation since Grandma's day. I want to be able to scrub that floor every once in a while so we bought the cheapest tiles we could get. I also started installing the insulation. Grandma wouldn't have had that either, but I'm lazier than Grandma and I don't want to spend all winter thawing out the chicken's water founts. This amount of insulation should do the trick on all but the coldest of days here.

While I was busy with the interior, the engineer was working on adjusting the doors and making and installing the exterior trim. Throw in a trip to Lowes and of course then there was the yard that constantly needs mowing. The goats and sheep are seeming more and more like a good idea considering it now requires liquid gold to power the mower.

By the end of the weekend we were exhausted but a few steps closer to moving these chickens from our humble home to their mini-mansion. The pending eggs had better taste real good.