Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Now you see 'em, now you don't

I used to count the chickens every night, and I mourned when one was missing.  Sometimes the errant bird showed up, sometimes not.  I started with 26 chickens, and by the time the new chicks arrived this year, I only had nine of them left - one rooster and eight layers.

I had losses from this year's chicks.  The hatchery replaced ten of them.  By the time I took them out to the Moop to join the other chickens, there were a total of 54, two roosters and 52 layers or pullets.

I haven't counted in quite some time.  Too many of them, and so heartbreaking when the number isn't right.  We lost one to a hawk, and second one didn't make it into the Moop on a cold night.  I found her body in the snow outside the pen.  Both were Campines, my favorites.  So now we keep a bit of hay under the Moop and make sure the gate is open at night, just in case some errant girl is out and about at sunset when I close the lid on the Moop.

About a week ago, I did a count, flashlight in hand.  There should have been 52.  I counted only 47, so that meant I had lost another five at some point.  No bodies were found lying around, so I could only imagine that a critter dragged them off.

Last night, I bravely decided to do another count, even though I knew I would be very depressed if the number was less than 47.  There were 52!  The Buckeyes are solid dark brown and tend to bunch on the floor in corners.  I am assuming I just did a terrible job of counting last week.  My heart soared to know that all of the cluckers were still there!

I am in love with these chickens.  But you knew that.  :)


One Saturday morning, as I went out to feed the cows in the dark before leaving for market, I noticed Sam was lying down.  He was usually right there at the head of the line for breakfast.  It's a good thing there was a bright moon, or I would have missed seeing him.

Sam wouldn't get up.  He had foam coming out of his mouth.  His head was off the ground, but I was very worried. I gave him a bucket of water, but he only drank about half of it.  I called one of the other milkers on my way to market and asked him to stop by and check on Sam later in the morning.  He told me that Sam was up and about at 10:00 a.m., but that he only drank about a half bucket of water. 

I also called the vet, Mat.  He said to keep an eye on him and he would stop by on Monday morning if he wasn't any better.  He thought it might be metal disease, and he told me what to do in the meantime.  Bovines love to munch on bits of metal.  It is imperative that we do not leave any metal lying around.  But occasionally I find a small piece of wire or a fencing hook lying in the pasture.  It happens, no matter how careful we all are.  Mat suggested that I put a magnet down him.  Any loose metal will stick to the magnet instead of migrating to the heart, where it can be fatal.  Unfortunately, Sean, my 10 year old visitor who had lived at the farm for a month, had found the plastic pill pusher to be an interesting toy.  I saw him with it one day and should have taken it from him, but thought he would put it back when his curiosity was satisfied.  It was nowhere to be found, and when I contacted Roy, he said Sean had no memory of it.  Sigh . . .

So I headed out for the farm store for a new pill pusher and a magnet.  Only one pill pusher on the shelf, and it had a broken handle.  No magnets, either.  After calling around to three vets, I finally found one who had both.  So off I went to another town, about ten miles away.  The pill pusher cost four times what it had at the farm store, but I had no choice.  I went home and got the magnet down Sam's throat and hoped for the best.

Sam wasn't getting any better.  Mat thought it might be that Sam had been getting too much balage, so I put him in with the calves where he would get a diet of dry hay only.  Still, he wasn't any better.  At one point, the vet warned me that he might not make it.  Mat thought it might be constipation, and I tried to get mineral oil down him, but he didn't find it tasty.  In fact, he was drinking very little water and was becoming noticeably thinner.  So Mat came out.  He hoped it was an impacted second stomach, which would cause him pain when he tried to drink or eat and would explain his weight loss.  Of all of the options, it was the best and the easiest to treat.  We would force feed him a couple of quarts of mineral oil in a few gallons of warm water.

My granddaughter, the medical student, was living with me at the time, and she came out to the barn to watch.  Mat held Sam's head and put a tube down his throat, making sure he got into the right stomach.  He ascertained it was the correct one by smelling the gas that came out of the tube - different stomachs have different odors.  (Sure hope you are not eating breakfast while you are reading this.)  While he held Sam's head, I began to pour mineral oil and warm water down the tube.  Four and a half gallons of it, to be precise.  Poor Sam!  There was a lot of belching and it wasn't pleasant!  At last the job was done.

Kate said she had to get ready for work at the clinic where she was doing her family practice round.  As she left the barn, I asked her if she would like to be a vet.  She answered, "No way!"

Sam's health improved daily.  I left him with the calves until I was sure that he was eating and drinking.  There were no more episodes of foaming from the mouth.  It was amazing how quickly he started putting on some weight.

Finally it was time for him to go back with the cows.  He was a bit indignant.  A few of the cows are quite capable of pushing him aside at feeding time, but the calves were no match for the big guy.   He had thoroughly enjoyed the extra attention and extra hay that he got while living with the calves.

I am so happy that Sam made it.   He is such a sweetie, and I hope to have him around for a long time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Deal of the day

Ah!  Mother Overstock offered me 20% off today!  For those of you who are confused by this, read yesterday's blog.

I figure by January 1, she is going to pay me to take a coat.

Monday, December 20, 2010


I've been contemplating getting a new winter coat for everyday use - not one for barn work, and not a full length coat that I would wear for dress.  Just a nice, warm coat to wear into the market - one without hay in the pockets.  My current only non-hay corrupted coat is a full length 100% cashmere coat that I bought about ten years ago on  So I have been spending some time out there hoping for another bargain.  It was only $165, and I wish I had bought two of them!  This one is getting a bit threadbare, and I want to save the last bit of goodness in it for dress up days, few though I have anymore.

Needless to say, Overstock knows I have been looking at coats, and so I hear from them frequently.  I am reminded of the mother telling her child, "If you do that one more time, I'm going to send you to your room!"  Ha!  How many times do many children hear that before the action?  I feel like a recalcitrant child whose mother is named Overstock, and she is telling me, if you order NOW, I will give you free shipping and 10% off.  Every day the bait gets a little sweeter, so why should I buy today?  It's another mother losing her credibility with her child.

I have written how, as a new bride, I wanted to impress my farmer husband when he told me not to let Rose back in the barn, as she didn't like to go back to the pasture when we were done milking.  I braced myself in the barn door to prevent her return, and Rose won.  She weighed about 1,000 pounds, and I was no match.  My right shoulder got rammed into the door frame and has given me trouble off and on ever since.  I have been having trouble with it again lately, and have even gone so far as to think I may have a torn rotator cuff.  It is quite painful.

Okay, this is a rather long and convoluted post, but it all links together.  I went to the doctor to get it looked at, and while in the waiting room, I picked up a magazine.  There was an article in there with a picture of a broken and glued together vase.  Curious, I read the accompanying text.  It told about the art of Wabi Sabi - making do with what you have.  You know, getting your priorities straight.  There is beauty in the break as well as in the vase.  The article went on to tell how you might put friends ahead of dusted furniture, that sort of thing.  Well, I learned that one a long time ago.  Before Kayla, my assistant, joined me, my friends could write their names in the dust on my furniture to keep track of when they last visited!

The article went on to talk about clothes.  I am not very fussy about styles.  Goodwill is my friend.  Since I have lost so much weight, I drop off a handful of baggy stuff at the back door and go in the front to find something that fits.  Then I remembered this lovely car coat that I bought a few years ago, on sale, very good price, but it was a little tight.  It has only gotten a little tighter over the last few years.  I would say it is about ten years old now, but looks like new.  I pulled it out of the closet and tried it on.  It fits beautifully!  Wabi Sabi - I have a new coat. 

So Mother Overstock, I will enjoy your mailing tomorrow.  Will it be 15% off?  Will there be another cashmere coat for $165?  Will I be tempted?  Maybe, but probably not.  I am enjoying watching to what lengths you will go to make a sale.  Better luck with other customers who have not learned the art of Wabi Sabi.

May you all find treasures in your own backyards this very night.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kate is on the road . . .

Well, my granddaughter left this morning, car packed to the hilt, and will be leaving from work this afternoon for her apartment in Indy.  Her family practice round is complete, and so I have lost my boarder.  She will be so glad to be back with her beloved dog, Stanley.  She hoped to bring him along.  Stanley came along on Thanksgiving Day, but unfortunately Tashi showed her Alpha colors and it was not pleasant.  Blood was drawn.  So Stanley had to stay with his Aunt Abby while Kate was here.

My Ayn Chee is a terrier, like Stanley.  To say that Kate and Ayn Chee bonded is an understatement!  When she walked in the backdoor after work, Ayn Chee ran to her with her "go fetch" toy, and it went on all evening.  I know how much Ayn Chee loves her, because she never brings the toy to me.  For the last two nights, Ayn Chee hasn't even come to bed with me until the early morning hours, when she is getting cold and wants to crawl under the covers with me.  I think that is because she is quite put out that Kate sleeps with her bedroom door closed!  Kate would be more than happy to sleep with Ayn Chee, but she keeps her door closed because of her allergic reaction to Holly Berry, the cat.

Oh, what convoluted lives we lead, accommodating the animals with whom we cohabit.  But it is worth it!

I miss Kate already, but not as much as Ayn Chee will miss her.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This and that . . .

It's cold here this morning.  South Bend has 13º, but just a few miles SSW of there, my thermometer bottomed out at -6.2º - yes NEGATIVE 6.2º.  I was a bit worried about the chickens.  I'm glad there are more of them in there this year than there were last year.  It was quite cozy when I opened it up.  The door didn't go up until about 8:30 - I knew the temp would drop fast once it was open.

They are happily picking at their morning feeding.  They have a heater for their water, and I took out another waterer full to the brim with hot water from the sink.  I'll have to check them a couple of extra times today.  The Campines are very hardy, but the other breeds out there - well, I don't know.  This winter will tell the tale.  Buckeyes were developed for cold weather regions, so I think they will be okay.  But the new girls are a mystery.  I'm not even sure of the breed of a couple of them.  When one takes free chickens, one does not look a gift chicken in the eye.

On a whole other subject, I did a little cleaning this week.  I sell herbs and spices at my booth at the market.  You would think that my herbs and spices would be well organized, wouldn't you?  Ha!  What a mess in there!!  The labels are still on the shelves, but the spice jars are no longer aligned with the carefully thought out labels:  Leaf, Powder, Seed, Gourmet, Rubs, Pickling Spices, and there is even one called Seldom Used.

Night before last, I hauled out every last jar and tin and got going.  My nose was put to good use, and some were far beyond using, even if used at double or TRIPLE the amount called for.  I filled a small bowl three times with unusable seeds, leaves and ground spices.  Then I started consolidating.  Three jars of oregano, four of celery leaves (I always dry the leaves myself and save them, although obviously not in the same place), two of turmeric, and on and on it went.  The emptied tins and plastic containers went into the recycling, and the glass jars were put to soak to get rid of labels.  I just took the last of them out of the dishwasher this morning.  I decided to count the empty containers - over 30 of them!

My spice cupboard is neat and well arranged.  There is space to move things around a bit and hunt for the stuff in back.  Two houses ago, I converted an old ironing board closet in my 1924 house to a spice closet.  It was perfect - in the kitchen, very tall, and very shallow.  I still mourn for that cupboard - no hunting or rearranging in there!  I tried to find room in this house, which I designed and had built, for such a cupboard, but it was a luxury I couldn't afford.  However, there are times when I wish I had taken out a bedroom so that I could have had a "proper" kitchen!

When you clean your fridge, do you find yourself going to it to look at your handiwork again and again?  I do.  And that is what I am doing with my spice cupboard.  It is a sight to behold -- at least to me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Another Campine gone . . .

It is always a Campine.  A hawk got a chicken about a month ago, and it was one of my beloved Campines.  This morning, as I was leaving their pen, I saw a dead chicken under some snow.  Of course, it was a Campine.  She didn't make it into the Moop last night.  Maybe I just missed her, or maybe some critter had already gotten her, and I just didn't see the body until this morning.

It always makes me sad.  I think it was one of the remaining nine from last year, because she was pretty big.

I am glad that the only roosters I have are Campines.  I will make sure that some of those white and fertile eggs get hatched next spring.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Feeling good

I realized that I have not had to stop on the way home from market for a nap in a couple of weeks.  Nearly every day on my way home, I would pull into a parking lot or a gas station, put the seat back, and snooze for ten or fifteen minutes.  It was serious, since I would find myself starting to fall asleep at the wheel and knew I had to stop or risk a serious accident.

So what has changed?  I have help!  I always blamed the sleepiness on things like the drone of the car, or boredom behind the wheel, never on exhaustion.  But I think that is what it was.  Kayla is here now, starting her fourth week of working here.  She works around 30 hours a week, sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on if she is on the milking schedule or not.

Yesterday I had to leave to get chicken feed and to pick up half a pork at the locker, so Kayla was here by herself.  I left her with a few small jobs, told her to stay busy as long as she could since she is not milking this week.  When I got home, both of my wood boxes were filled to the brim, the fires were both going (I usually come home to a bit of a chill and fires that have burned down to some coals), all of the dirty utensils from the soap room were cleaned up and put back in place.  What a nice feeling!  When I got home, I had to unload 300 lbs. of chicken feed, but that was it.  No fires to rebuild, no wood to haul in for the night.  I left the 85 pounds of pork in the car until after Kate and I had supper, and then she helped me bring that in.  I feel absolutely pampered and spoiled!

I think I know why I no longer need a nap on the way home.  It is good to have help here, and Kayla is a jewel!  No job too big or too small for her.  :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Six eggs - all white

Oh, those Campines!  They do not know the meaning of winter.  Six eggs yesterday, all white, four of them pullet eggs.  These are Belgian chickens.  I wonder if that has something to do with it - they were developed in a country far to the north.  Belgium's latitude is about 50º, ours is about 40º and Anchorage, AK is about 61º.  So it is actually quite a bit to the north of us.

These Campines think they are in the south, compared to the daylight hours they experienced in the land where they were developed.  Well, I'm all for it.  Now that I have five different breeds of chickens around here, I thought I might not be so in love with the Campines.  I am.  They are my favorites, even if they don't let me pick them up and cuddle them!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Back in business

I am told that whether or not your chickens lay is dependent on the number of hours of daylight.  My Campines don't understand this concept.  As the days wind down, nearing the winter solstice, they have begun laying!  At least one of the older chickens is laying, and I am getting two or three pullet eggs every day as well.

No rhyme or reason to this.  But I am so glad to be getting my own fresh eggs again.  Kate and I breakfast on eggs and bacon every morning.  This morning there was a pullet egg in the nest when I went out to feed and water at sunrise, so an egg that was warm in my hand went into the skillet today.

All of the eggs I am finding are white, whether full size or pullet.  No blue, no brown.  Obviously, the Campines, independent little devils that I know they are, missed the lesson on day length and laying.