Thursday, February 27, 2014

Great Women in Chickstory

Let me start by saying that I started out with 6 chicks.
2 Black Australorps
2 Barred Rocks
2 Brown Sex-Links
I got them at Callahan's General Store on the 25th.

When I was at Tractor Supply the next day (26th) two new chicks mysteriously ended up in my shopping cart.
2 chicks of unknown heritage. 
Chicks from the "mixed pullets" bin.
They could be Welsummers, Speckled Sussex, or Barnevelders.
Time and feathers will tell.

I believe in meaningful names for animals.  
Well thought out.  
Thematic if at all possible.
The theme for this batch of chicks is Great Women in History.
While 8 chicks can't possibly scratch the surface of every great woman in history, it is a microscopic sample of women I think made/make a difference in the lives of humans around the globe.

Jane (Goodall)

 Julia (Childs)

 Eleanor (Roosevelt)

 Ruth (Bader-Ginsburg)

Amelia (Earhart)

Marie (Curie)

 Rosa (Parks)

  Harriot (Tubman)

Mandy has always been a protective soul.
She is ever interested in any baby animal that comes in the house.
These babies are no exception.

"Oooo, shiny!  Must investigate and peck"

"Wonder how the food is here?"

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Getting the Baby's Room Ready

Not a human baby.
A chicken baby.
Four chicks, maybe 5.
The first thing I did was take a look at my "keeping chicks warm" situation.
Having a giant heat lamp hanging over the babies like bags of old french fries bothers me for two reasons.
1.) They are never in the dark. Red light shines on them 24/7.
I can't really imagine what a drag it is to sleep with the lights on.

2.) If the light somehow falls into the enclosure, it starts a fire.
Fires are bad.

I spent way too much time researching alternatives and this is what I found.
If you click on the photo, you can see more about how this method works.
The Brinsea EcoGlow20 has many claims to its perfectness and every review was glowing.
I used a Christmas gift card from Preston and Katie to offset the price (thanks kids!!).

Next I needed a brooder box.
I happen to be one of those people who'll talk to strangers---that's how you make new friends.
In this case, my talking to strangers netted me a fabulous box from the produce section in my local grocery store. 
 The produce manager was more than happy to give me an old box. 
 A giant box!
I honestly think it is brand new, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?
My theory is this--you just have to ask.  All they can do is say no.  
He said yes.

overhead shot
Next came a roosting bar.
I jury-rigged a bar out of old pvc pipe.
Necessity is the mother of invention. 

side shot

Next came the watering station.
Chicks are notorious for filling their water with shavings and poop.
Can't do much about the poop, but elevating the water can help with keeping the shavings out.

I added rocks to the water tray.
Chicks have a propensity to drowning in the first week or two of life.
I'll add more rocks, but this gives you the idea.

 You may recognize the yellow as part of the chick warmer.  It is.
The only flaw in the design of the thing, is that it has a flat top. 
A perfect place to hop on and off and back on again.
A perfect place to poop.
I covered the top with an old box to keep it clean.

Lastly, I made a cover for the box.  The wood is stapled onto the piece of fencing.  While the chicks won't be able to fly (yet), it's important to protect them from cats and other predators.  
Even though this is in my garage, the doors often get left open and anything could come in.
I read another chicken owners account of having a Red Tailed Hawk come right in her garage and get in her brooder with her chicks.  Seems the peep-peeping of the chicks attracted the hawk.

All that's left to do is head to the local feedstore and pick out my new chicks!

I was going to do that today, but I'm getting in baby squirrels, so it'll have to wait til Monday. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

9 Hours and Nothing to Show for It But a Clean Garage

Note: We have 4 garage bays. We had two extra bays built because we don't have a basement to store our stuff.
In my last post, I pointed out that I obviously have a rodent visitor in my garage.
It's my own fault.  
I have been too lazy to cover the bins that hold my deer corn and chicken scratch.

My primary reason for cleaning the garage is that I'm getting chicks soon and their brooder will be in the garage.
Having chicks and more food available would just be further enticement for rats to come in.
Plus, the garage was a wreck.

In addition to our inability to put things back where we got them, 
we also suffer from the "put it in the garage, we'll take care of it later"  and the  "leave the garage doors open all day because one of us might leave or come home" maladies.

Our garage bays are shaped like an "L"--two on one side and two on the other.
The wind loves to whip around in the center of the space and bring in all sorts of debris.
Primarily lots of dust and leaves.

 I began cleaning closest to the two grain bins.

 As you can clearly see, my rat has been very busy for a very long time.

I swept, shopvac'd, and blew (leaf blower) every crack and crevice. 

 I looked in every single box, bin, and bag.
 I was certain that at some point I'd find the nest of the offender and kick him or her out.

 I did, however, come across this beauty at about my 2 hour mark of cleaning.
 If you know me at all, you know that I love tarantulas.
I was glad to pick him up and relocate him.  

I will need to "bug bomb" the space as I also located a bazillion spiders that seem to only make webs to catch leaves.  I also saw more than my fair share of silverfish.

Bug bombs also kill tarantulas, so out he went.

As the day progressed, I found more and more caches of corn.

The biggest one held nearly four cups of corn (I measured).  This rat was saving up for a rainy day or an apocalypse or a rattie zombie invasion.

At one point, I thought I'd finally located the mother ship--on the ceiling!  Well, not literally the ceiling, but darn close.
I was brushing cobwebs off where the walls meet the ceiling an happened to glance at the garage door opener.
The photo is blurry, but it's clear that something is nesting up there.

I even recognized the nesting material.
It was bark from large cedar pieces we had propped up against a wall ("put it in the garage, we'll take care of it later").

 Alas, it was just a birds nest.  
A wren had been hard at work when I wasn't looking ("leave the garage doors open all day because one of us might leave or come home").

So, for 9 hours of work, all I have is a clean garage.  No rats or rat's nests.
I guess I'm relieved because I don't know what I'd have done with a rat's nest.

Before I buy chicks, I'll set out several snap traps to catch any new rodent visitors.
Oh, and I'll probably start putting the lids on the grain bins,
and we'll start putting things back where they came from,
and we'll quit putting stuff out there to take care of another time,
and we'll start putting the garage doors down,
and pigs will fly,
and hell will freeze over.
A girl can at least dream of keeping a clean garage, can't she?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

An Offering of Corn

Yesterday the weather was nice enough for me to get out and work in the yard.
After gathering the proper tools, I reached for my gloves and got a surprise.
Someone had left me a gift of corn and sunflower seeds.
I was astounded.  I had used those same gloves, just a day earlier.

If you could see my garage you would understand my astonishment completely.
To say that it's a wreck would be an understatement.  
There is order to our disorder, but barely.
There are a million other places for the rat or squirrel to place a cache.
Why my glove?

This isn't the first time I've found a cache, but certainly the most unusual spot.

Last summer, while we were on vacation, a critter decided that setting up shop under the hood of my car was as good a place as any.  
No wires nibbled, just a place to eat in peace.

I had a lengthy discussion with the cat regarding this problem.
He told me he'd get right on it.
I suspect he was patronizing me.
"Yea, yea, whatever".

I don't know if this was a rat or a squirrel.
Both store food for later consumption.
I have a cheeky squirrel that comes in the garage and gets right in an open feed bin to eat.
Of course we have rats.
I found a partially consumed one in the yard just today.

While I was hoping that my new game camera would help me see things that I don't normally see; I'm thinking it will be set up in the garage tonight.

To be continued.....

Saturday, February 15, 2014

In the Spring, a Young Woman's Fancy Turns Lightly to Thoughts of....

...In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;
In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love....
~"Locksley Hall" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

A young man's fancy may turn to thoughts of love, but mine turns to thoughts of dirt
 and young plants
 and flowers
 and stakes, trellises, 
 and blossoms
 and hope----hope for rain.
Lots of it.
Gentle and quiet 
Torrential amounts with thunder and lightning and wind.
We just need rain.

 This Spring my thoughts will also turn toward chicks.
 My hens are not laying regularly and they are aging.
 It's time for them to retire, take it easy and let new girls take the job.
 Before long, I'll have a brooder set up and make a trip to a local farm and garden place to get new babies.
 I'll spend an inordinate amount of time sitting on the floor with them in the garage.  
I'll "chick-chick-chick" to teach them to come when they are called.
 I'll try to mimic the purr and coo of a momma hen to let them know that I'm the one to come running to when things get scary out on the property when they get older.
 They'll all get names.  Names insure that they'll never have to visit the stew pot or freezer camp.
My reward will be these.  The lovely brown ones.  
Grocery store eggs have got nothing on a 'real egg'.
Plus, I'll have enough to share with my father-in-love.
He loves a 'real egg' even more than I do.

What do you find yourself thinking about this spring?

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Heart-Brain Paradox

Humankind holds that the brain is the center of reason and the heart is the center of emotion.
We all know differently, but on a day like Valentine's Day, brain shaped boxes full of chocolate truffles just wouldn't be as romantic.

Twenty-Three years ago today, my father died.
I was so very relieved for him.
He had suffered his entire life
Born to an unloving mother and an alcoholic father, he joined the Marines the first chance he got.
They shipped him off to the South Pacific during WWII, during which he was forced to kill a woman.
The only story he ever told about any of the war was that one, and only in a depressive stupor late in his life.
One time. 
It messed him up in a really big way.
I never heard that story again.
I'm certain that he saw many, many more horrible things.
Things the light and lovely movies of the 40s and 50's about the war did not convey.

He had carried on in his father's footsteps and become an alcoholic.
He was also bi-polar.
He smoked like a chimney.

He was a sick man, mentally and physically.

You'd think my childhood would have been wrecked by living with a man like that.
It wasn't.
He somehow managed to hold it all together for most of my growing up years.
He was a functional drunk.
He didn't miss work, he never got a DUI, he didn't beat us or yell at us or break things.

He took me hunting and fishing and mushroom hunting.
He loved me--truly, madly, deeply.
I loved him--truly, madly, deeply.

It was seeing a therapist that broke the delicate balancing act he had carried on his entire life.
It was then that he let the atrocities of the war and his childhood came to the surface.
It broke free like a monster and ate him alive.
He could no longer hold it at bay with alcohol and pills.

His marriage to my mom fell apart.
He quit working.
Smoking and pills and booze finally caught up to him.
He died (alone I think, I'm trying to find out) in California.

When I found out that he had died, I was so relieved for him.
So happy he was done with the suffering and pain.
At the time, I was also terribly mad that he hadn't "pulled it together".
Being mentally ill carried a stigma and wasn't considered a real thing.
I got over that.  I just wish I had gotten to say so.

Many years have come and gone since he died.
Some years I barely think of him at all.
This year, this day, is not one of them.

Here is when the Heart-Brain paradox comes into play.

My heart wants a few 'do-overs'.  
My heart wants to say I'm sorry.  
My heart wants to have said "I Love You" before he died.

My brain knows the reality of all that happened in the time my dad and I shared together.
Reality says that we did the very best we could.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Christmas Present is Out of the Box

One of my wishes for Christmas (besides miniature donkeys) was a game camera.
Santa saw fit to get me one. 
I guess they're less bulky and noisy and messy than donkeys.

My first reason for not putting the thing up right away was batteries.
I kept forgetting to buy them.

Then, I needed an SD card (widget that hold the photos).
I thought we had one laying around the house.
We did.
I just gave up looking.
This weekend, Eric got involved and found one that had enough gigs (storage for photos??) to hold more than 3 pictures.
I am a complete Luddite when it comes to computers, cameras, and even TV remotes.
Just ask Eric, I cried when he got a new remote a few years ago.

Anyway, once batteries and an SD card were on board, I managed to set the thing up and mount it in front of a place I have water for all the wildlife.
I didn't cry once.

Here is the first set of pictures from my camera.
Nothing I haven't seen before, but still fun.

Chickadee and Goldfinch

Penny, my 9 year old hen that still lays eggs.

Penny again

Me, wandering in front of the camera to test if it was really working.

First big game of the night--a doe.

Small game--a cottontail.
He looks like he's got his wits about him.  Our two resident Great Horned owls are out hunting to be sure.

Possibly the last buck "Momma" ever had.  Jenna named him Charlie.

The reason I think this is Charlie is this---he's missing his left antler.
When he was just a yearling, he got tangled in our soccer net and ripped off his little antler--all the way down to his skull.
He was so tame that he let me put antibiotic ointment on it for several days in a row.  
After some research, I decided that he had damaged the growth plate for that antler.
That fall, he disappeared and we figured he'd died.
This year, a one antlered deer appeared.
He's obviously a big boy now and if it is Charlie, his natural fear of humans has kicked in.
Just as it should be.

Another doe

The wind.  I've captured a photo of the wind!
The instructions say to remove any brush that might be in the frame, as the camera will take pictures of the weeds as they blow back and forth.

A spike buck.  He's a good size, but hunters want trophy antlers.