Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chicken saga and ducks on the loose

Big Daddy Roo and 3 young girls in the hay bales waiting for the rain to end.

We lost several chickens recently to unknown causes. Two of the older ones disappeared during the day, and we lost another 4 to an unidentified ailment. One has been in Chicken Hospital (our garage) for about 4 days, and she just died today.

(photo 1) At the end of May we decided to increase our flock by buying 6 more young chickens—Black Australorps about 2 months old. We kept them closed up in the duck house outside for awhile until I could set them up in the dog house out by the coop with a fenced area for roaming. I am almost ready to open the fence during the day, but I want them to get used to where they live so we don't have any trouble rounding them up at night. Soon enough I hope they will join the other free-ranging chickens in the coop.
(photo 2) Three of our hens have been sitting on eggs in the nest boxes—not where we would like them to be, because now the other hens are laying their eggs somewhere else and we don't know where! Last week 2 of them each hatched a chick, and the third one decided she was done sitting on eggs and rejoined her sisters. So at least the nest box is clear again, but there are a dozen eggs in the garage under the heat lamp trying to become more chickies. I don't expect that to work, but have to try.

(photo 3) So now we have 2 very protective momma hens with 2 new chicks. In the first day, the chicks jumped down off the table where the nest boxes are and I found all of them outside playing in the dirt under the big weedy bush next to the coop. I think they'll be OK with mommas watching during the day, but I lock the 4 of them up at night in a crate to keep them safe from critters and the other chickens.

(photo 4) Next day I check on them and the one yellow chick has been injured somehow. I put her over next to the mommas and they scratch in the dirt knocking her across the room where she gets buried in the hay and wood chips. Then Red Mom picks her out of the pile only to bury her again! What? I pulled her and put her in Chicken Hospital too. At first it looked like her one foot and wing were injured, now just the foot is curled under. It could have even been that way from birth, but I think not. The moms hurt her and I don't know why.

(photo 5) To add to the excitement, yesterday I picked up 3 Brown Leghorn chicks from the lady who sold us the roosters that were supposed to be hens. I thought I could add them in with the 2 mommas, but they attacked these little ones as well, so now they have joined poor yellow chick with the bad foot in the garage. That was probably a good move because it was very chilly here last night, but nice and warm in there under the heat lamp. The 4 of them get along just fine.

(photo 6) We let the ducks out of their pen for the first time today. One of them has a funky looking wing, possible birth defect. Hard to tell yet if they are boys or girls, but the lighter one looks just like her momma, and the darker one like dad.

Nice chilly rainy day and the only safe and warm ones are the 4 little chicks in the garage. Chilly here in the house too! It's the end of June. It just ain't right!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Conservation Easement closing with a butterfly and moth

This morning we closed on our Conservation Easement which will be appropriately named Lester's Flat. I am posting my favorite Lester's Flat photo of Lester enjoying a swim in the Herkimer Creek back in May 2007. Our portion of this creek will now be preserved in perpetuity.

The post before this one has a better description of the easement —the short story is that our meager 23+/- acres will be preserved forever.

To celebrate our closing with the Otsego Land Trust, we received a goodie basket and a freshly baked pie from them. In return, in addition to my little offering of some homemade goat cheese, I am posting 2 photos taken earlier this week. One of a black butterfly who was hanging out for quite a while on our front porch, the other of a huge moth that I saved from being swatted with a newspaper at The Freeman's Journal where I work.

From my minimal online research, the butterfly is a White Admiral. The moth is the same type I saw on our back porch in June 2012. Someone from the ID Please group on Flickr identified it as a Waved Sphinx. If anyone has a better ID for either one, please feel free to comment.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The big picture

We got the good news yesterday that the Baseline Report is finished for the Conservation Easement we are going to get on our property. We go to closing in June. We have been working on this with the Otsego Land Trust for over a year now. We think our land is worth saving, and they seem to agree.

Having a bald eagle nest right across the street from us probably helped to seal the deal!

The red outline on the map is the boundary of our land, which will be divided into Building Area, Open Space Area, and Natural Area. The green shaded part will be retained as natural perpetuity. This is a combination of woods and creek, with a smattering of old apple trees, probably the remains of an orchard from when this was all The Herkimer Farm. We are still exploring back there, with a little help from the dogs, and have found a wide variety of plants, birds, and other critters including deer, coyote, fox, skunk, porcupine, beaver, frogs, toads, turtles, and the ever unpopular groundhog of which we have WAY too many.

Neighbors say there are also bobcats (think I saw one), a mountain lion, bear, mink, weasel, fisher cat, and a wide variety of predators who would love to eat our chickens and ducks—some are already gone—but the little Jack Russell across the road has done more damage thus far than any of the mystery predators.

We also got the bad news yesterday that our neighbor in New Jersey wants to trim back the really old cedar trees on the edge of our property. While I understand her good intentions, I know from back in my Tree Commission days that old cedars are not easily pruned. The only way to get these trees to stop dropping stuff on her car in the driveway is to shear the whole one side. That would kill the trees which we would then have to remove altogether. The easy solution is to take out the trees, but it would cost a fortune and I really hate to see them go.

So we will do the best we can to work with the tree trimmers and simply pray they do not kill those beautiful trees. I don't want to be whipping my property into shape anymore, I want to enjoy it as is. I won that battle up here, but will probably lose that battle in NJ.

Signing off today as the Big Tree Hugger. Wish me well.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ducks day out, hens have a heyday

Nice sunny warm day—the first time I was able to allow the little ducklings to play in the sun and grass. Their first time out from under the heat lamp in the garage. They were a little scared and probably confused at first, partly because the chickens had to come over to investigate. The chickens are the first other animals they have seen besides us, and the girls were very much interested in the little babies out there. Playmates? Enemy invaders?

We are actually searching for some more chickens. Two of our older ones have gone missing. Of the 7 original Wyandottes (black and white) and Rhode Island Reds, we have 2 remaining. They are the 2 in the photo behind the duck cage, also in the other photo. We purchased 3 full-grown grey/blue hens shortly after that, and all 3 of those are gone now.

And of the last 10 babies from last spring, just in the last 3 weeks we have lost 2 of those to mysterious circumstances.

So we are down to 1 handsome Buff Orpington rooster and 12 young(ish) ladies to keep him occupied and to give us eggs. We are having a hard time keeping our Greek friends satisfied with eggs. The 2 different families, who know each other, still call and tell me to "Save all the eggs for me". And we are still trying to supply enough to keep Anna, who sells them in her shop, happy too.

So we are asking around for anyone who is selling or giving up adult hens. I also contacted the woman who sold us the 4 roosters (that were supposed to be 3 hens and 1 roo). She is getting in some new chicks in June and is happy to give us 3 of them to make up for the extra roos.

And we have one of the Buff hens still sitting on eggs in the coop. She did get up one time and we saw only one egg under her, so there is not much hope that she will succeed in hatching any, but you never know. There is also a small chance that one or both of the hens that ran off a couple of weeks ago is outside somewhere sitting on eggs, but I doubt that is where they disappeared to...

So for now we are happy to be raising 2 little duckies. Can't wait to see if they are boys or girls. My gut says that the dark one is a boy, and the light one a girl, but I have no reason to trust my gut. Time will tell.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Happy Birthday Middle Sis! (OR Sis)

Today is actually your birthday, so here are some photos for you. No more nudies in the sink, but this time, some oldies but goodies from your shower and wedding, and one of your favorite? house. (I might be in there too!)

Were you truly surprised at your shower...or just faking it for the camera?

I know there are a lot of things going on for you, job-wise and otherwise, and we wish you all the best in making those tough decisions.

Whatever decisions you make will be the right ones. Trust me!

As for the sweet little ducklings who could not wait for your birthday, they are doing very well, and are about twice the size they were in the first picture. If they turn out to be a boy and a girl, we will name them Jo and Dan for you.

Warning though: critters don't necessarily have a long life up here, so if they disappear (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) we cannot be held responsible.

Have a great birthday, Sista!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A pleasant surprise—Duck story chapter 2

I told you around Little Sister's birthday in April that the 2 remaining ducks who were living here at Lester's Flat had ditched us...or were about to. They had stopped letting us close them up safely at night, but were still coming back during the day to hang out with the chickens (and eat the chicken feed). The pictures I took then were probably the last day that they even came back during the day. The neighbor out front said he had seen them behind the barn a few times even a week or more later, but now they have disappeared completely.

I choose to believe that they found the creek and moved down there, or maybe down to the lake to make a happy life together. The alternatives are not pretty.

Early this morning we got a phone call that of the 10 eggs I stole from the nest back in April, 3 of them hatched! I gave them to Elmer, a neighbor with an incubator, just in case they might give us some more duckies. I didn't really expect them to hatch because they had been in the crate outside for several very cold days without a momma sitting on them.

Three hatched, but one of the ducklings was pretty obviously not healthy. He or she had trouble breaking out of the shell, and was all wobbly and weak while the others were moving about normally. The poor little thing died a few hours later.

The remaining 2 are so far, very happy little ducklings out in the garage, under the heat lamp. I will do my best to help them through these difficult first few days.

So adorable! And just in time for Middle Sister's birthday! Happy birthday (almost) Middle Sister!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Other boys take a rest too

Since Cyrus, Woody and the goat kids have been taking up all of my posts recently, I thought it was only proper to capture a peaceful moment with the cat boys—Willie and MonkeyCat. They were tussling like the dogs when we first brought the Monkey home (video below from October 1) but now they seem to truly like each other. None of our other cat pairs have been so close and comfortable.

Willie is still a bit put out by the fact that Monkey spends so much time downstairs with the dogs. Monkey, the cat ambassador, says "Can't we all just get along?"

The dogs are beginning to adjust...

Just in the past few days I have seen Will come down. He mostly hangs out on the stairs just watching the mayhem. But when the dogs are suitably distracted, or spending time outside on the porch, Will and Monkey will sneak downstairs and go play in the basement. Once they even spent some time with me on the sofa while the pooches were sleeping.

Soon there will be peace in the house. That is my goal.

Wish me luck!


Update: As I was uploading this post, the dogs were sleeping on the living room floor, Monkey on the dog bed. Willie came into the living room and meowed, looking for Monkey. If he had just been silent, he might have gotten away with it...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Boys do battle...and then they rest

Cyrus is fitting into our routine just nicely. He is still a well behaved boy, but is showing more of his true personality. No more of the non-confrontational Cyrus that was in the shelter getting along with everyone so sweetly.

Woody is usually the one who initiates the battles, but even though he is a few pounds heavier than Cyrus, Cyrus usually gains the upper hand by biting Woody's big honkin' ears, or when that doesn't tame the WoodMan, by ripping out his throat. Well, at least that is what it looks like. Only once did Woody complain with a very pathetic bark, that he couldn't breathe.

But they have also been seen resting calmly on the sofa together. That is, up until MonkeyCat comes in to wake them up to play again.

For the first 2 weeks I took Cyrus into work with me because I was afraid to leave him home. He was a perfect gentleman in the office, but somewhere along the way figured out that laying around and being good all day was kind of boring.

So I finally got up the courage to leave him home for longer periods of time, including going to work without him. He did very well. But then I left him in the house for just a few minutes while we were out milking goats... One entire tamale pie (and a spicy one at that) was devoured from off the back of the counter.

A couple of nights later, I thought I had properly hidden the pork chops I was defrosting. Went outside again, only for a few minutes, and come back to catch Cyrus in the act of raiding the countertop. He knocked over a bucket with 3 eggs in it while trying to pretend that he was not the culprit.

This time his snack included 2 partially frozen pork chops with bones, 6 English muffins, 4 slices of bread, a half stick of butter, and half of a huge chocolate chip cookie. Woody may have helped out with whatever bits made it to the floor, and he probably had some of the tamale pie the time before, but Woody was at the door to greet me when I came in, so I don't think he was responsible for the counter-surfing part.

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. My fault... Won't be leaving food on the counter again any time soon...

So this is what it is like to have all boys in the house!

Love you, Cyrus! We're getting there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Happy Birthday, Little Sista! and the ducks done ditched us!

Little Sista still counts the days to her birthday with great enthusiasm. So a big birthday shout-out to ya, Sista!


We had 8 ducks to start, 5 males, 3 females. We bought 2 additional females to even out the numbers...boys beating up on the girls too much. Then one of the original females went off and had 8 babies. Then we sold all of the remaining originals because the boys were beating up on momma and babies. So we are down to 1 momma, 8 babies, 2 newbies.

Babies are now all grown up. Then we forget to close them up 1 night and all go missing but 2! Ouch! But at least the 2 remaining are a male and female. We have hopes of seeing more babies, and we have them even more securely locked up than before. This goes well for a few months.

The problem now is that Lady Duck is hiding eggs by burying them in the hay inside the dog crate they call home. Not a very good Momma, she thinks she is hatching some babies, but only sits on her eggs at night and it is still plenty cold outside. Man Duck is a very good protector, and does not want us to come anywhere near the crate when she is in there.

We manage to lock them up every night for awhile, and then The Husband (mine not hers) removes the 13 eggs, knowing they are not going to hatch because she is not sitting on them. Next night, ducks don't come home to the crate. We search everywhere, thinking we can hear them close by, but no ducks. Next morning they are back out there playing with the chickens.

After several days of this, I go out before it gets dark and see them running away from me going over toward the house and barn out front (to the left in the second photo). I searched as best I could, considering it is nighttime and not our property, can't find them anywhere. Next morning, back with chicken friends...

And that is how this story ends. The ducks have ditched us and moved on. They still come back to eat our food and hang out with their chicken friends, but they don't need us anymore. I don't expect they will live too long like this, given all the critters we have around here, but we have no choice but to let them move on. I don't expect Lady Duck will figure out anytime soon how to hatch her babies either, so there will be a ____load of eggs deposited somewhere on the neighbor's property.

It's a darn shame they don't like duck eggs!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A very well behaved man, that Cyrus!

Yes, that's one blue eye and one brown.

There are moments when Cyrus lets some of his true dog personality show through—like when he magically released himself from the leash to chase a deer here by the house. Nothing wrong with collar or leash, he just let himself free...just like that. But the well behaved part was that he returned after about 3 minutes, ran right up onto the porch and waited for me to let him in.

I have been taking him into work at The Freeman's Journal. He did so well on Monday, that I was encouraged to bring him back on Tuesday, which is crazy-busy press day. He made it through about 8 hours, on a rainy day when I couldn't walk him too much, and I am sure he could have lasted longer.

Unlike ANY of our other dogs, Cyrus knows how to just lay down and be good. MonkeyCat has been testing him out, sneaking up and batting him on the nose while he's sleeping, but so far no major reaction. He is sometimes inspired by Woody to chase the Monkey, and even take a chew or 2, but MonkeyCat always comes back for more.

They said at the shelter that Cyrus is non-confrontational, but his new buddy the WoodMan brings out the crazy in everyone he meets. Soon I will post the movies of Woody and Cyrus playing. They seem well matched in their craziness and vying for dominance. You might think they are killing each other, for all the snarling and wrestling, but both are quite happy with themselves, and more important—tired—when all is said and done.

They "fight" over Woody's prime spot in the sofa with Mom, and Monkey gets in on it too. (That's Monkey wrapped around my chin in the top right photo.) But at the end of the day, Cyrus is just as happy on the heated floors, and last night just hung out on the back porch by himself for awhile.

Woody is just a little bit concerned that he won't get as much love as before Cyrus (BC) but I assured him that we have enough love for all the boys in the house.