Friday, November 16, 2018

November snow


We just weren't ready for that bench to start disappearing in November. It just ain't right!

Cyrus celebrated by making some snow angels (devils?) after his walk.

Woody celebrated with mom by giving her some extra love in the nice warm living room by the woodstove.

I couldn't get that perfect pic of him with his head resting on my chest looking very adorable. And I couldn't get one with me looking anything close to adorable... first thing in the morning... not my time of day...

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Bobcat extermination team to the rescue


Thankfully we have not had any further visits from the killer bobcat, possibly due to the fact that I hired The Bobcat Extermination Team from Brigantine. Locked and loaded and ready to go... we will pay any price to rid ourselves of this pest.

In all seriousness, there isn't really much we can do except sit and wait and hope nothing happens. If the chickens can survive the winter in their smaller space, I may try to let them roam again in the spring.

Winter? Yes, winter is here in so many ways. Not bad enough that it is so stinkin' cold these past few days, now we are supposed to get 7" to 10" of snow tonight. I guess this is normal weather for mid-November, but we are simply not prepared after not much of a fall.

At least we will have a nice turkey this year for Thanksgiving. Last year I was stuck doing turkey drumsticks in the crockpot because the oven was a goner. Brandy new oven is working just fine.

Yay for that! (as ME would say!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

18 chickens staying alive

When the bobcat attacked my chickens last week, it was sunny and the grass was still green. Just that fast, everything turned brown and white. Before the snow today, I was still finding feathers scattered around the yard that are evidence of the brutal attack.

I found out that I have another week of open hunting on bobcats, but that is not really going to do me any good unless one of us gets a quick lesson in how to shoot a rocket-fast moving killer. And I am not sure I could pull the trigger if I had to...bobcats deserve to live too...

So the best I can do for now is put up a fence around my free ranging chickens. It is a fairly large space around the coop for them to roam, but at least they are all in one place, and I don't have to worry about guiding them back to the coop if the monster cat comes back.

I don't know what else to do except pray that he doesn't come back, and worry that if he does he will jump the fence and have his dinner all captured for him.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A murder of chickens

The 18 remaining chickens on Sunday afternoon, all on edge, watching in every direction
Having free range chickens is a risky business—we knew that when we started with 7 pullets in 2011. After 2 of our hens successfully raised 4 chicks each, our most recent total was 20 adults and 8 chicks just a few weeks ago in August.

We have also lost quite a few hens over time to predators. An adorable Jack Russell terrier from across the street was the first killer, then a few hens disappeared without a trace, probably to a hawk, eagle or fox, then a raccoon we caught in the act, and even our own recently adopted dog managed to kill 4 hens before we knew he was a predator.

This past Friday was the worst massacre thus far—8 chickens in one afternoon. 

I saw a disturbance while walking my chicken-killer dog on the leash, but couldn't investigate until I got him back in the house. When I came back with the other dog, the chickens had all scattered and there were 2 different piles of feathers on the ground. When Woody the hound and I approached, something screamed at us from the weeds. He wanted to pull me in there to investigate but I was afraid to let him off the leash, and I certainly wasn't going in with him.

I called my neighbor across the road and he came over with a shovel. We let Woody go see what was happening in the weeds, and he came back with a dead chicken, the mother of the 4 youngest chicks. I know he didn't kill it. So now what do I do with the scattered chickens who are all over the place? They are nowhere near the coop where they close themselves up at night, and it's 2 hours before dark.

I had The Husband teach me how to use the rifle we have had for a few years, but I didn't really think I would have a chance to use it safely. This bobcat is faster than any animal I have ever seen. So I sat out there with a pitchfork as my weapon of choice and watched and waited. Finally, as it is getting darker, there is a single file of 8 or 9 chickens making their way back to the coop, but they were hesitating. I moved closer to try to convince them to come this way, but they were still reluctant. Then, about 4 feet away from me, a bobcat flies out of the weeds and takes a young chick. Without thinking I ran over to it and screamed/cursed until it ran off. The chick died in my hands. 

I knew the monster cat was still close. I called my saint of a neighbor again, and he came this time with a rifle. We tried to lure the bobcat out of the weeds by placing the dead chick near him. We could see the weeds moving as he came closer to investigate, but he changed directions when he saw us approaching. My neighbor took 9 blind shots into the weeds and it took off. I have no idea if he hit it or not. 

This second attack was all the way on the other side of the property, 500 feet or more from the first. The bobcat took off toward the creek, going in the opposite direction from that first attack. I managed to get the remaining chickens closed up in the coop, and I kept them closed up the entire next day. On Sunday I let them loose again, but went out to check on them several times. Around noon, we saw the bobcat again back on the far side where the first attacks had occurred.

So I sat all afternoon out by the coop, where the remaining 18 chickens were staying close. Luckily it was a nice sunny day for sitting. I saw no cat activity, but I also never saw the bobcat make its way from one side of the property to the other between the 2 attacks on Friday.

It is still out there.

What do I do with my scared free range chickens?

Today it is rainy and nasty again, so I am just keeping them in the coop, but I can't keep them in there forever...

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Climate change

Cosmos garden October 24

Cosmos garden October 13
What little color we had 10 days ago is gone. Frost has taken what was left of summer flowers and tomatoes. The local climate has certainly given in to winter winds.

We had the first snow last Thursday while Faunces were up visiting. Not much, just about an inch which melted by late morning, early afternoon. The 4 pics below were from Steve and Mary. The snow was on the ground at an orchard where they went picking the day after they stopped here.

The barn out front is still in good shape, but the house in the picture above it is not long for this world. According to Magic Charlie, it was built in the 1700s. Not sure if that is true, but since he left us, the new owners are not doing a good job of maintaining it. Broken windows, critters and trash inside... At least there are no more renters in there to do more damage. And I don't have to worry about the chickens going over there and pestering people.





Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Winter visitors!


We went from that late summer heat just a week or so ago, to our first snow on the ground when Mary and Steve came up from NJ for a visit on Wednesday. Steve said he wanted to see some October snow, and we made sure he got his wish.

By Friday it was warm enough again to sit outside at the Fire Bar when Sue and Joe came north. Beautiful spot right on Otsego Lake, beautiful night for a drink with family that we don't get to see often enough.

Saturday afternoon we went to the Munson Williams Proctor Museum in Utica and we were all very impressed. The big spider gets a lot of attention, but they have a variety of other famous artists' works as well.

We caught the Ukrainian Festival on the way out, kielbasa and kraut sandwiches for an early dinner. Later that evening, The Husband made his debut at the Cooperstown Beverage Exchange playing mandolin along with his dentist Dr W, and friend Tom.

Saturday was the last of the warm weather for the year (probably). It has been woodstove weather ever since.



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Summer bits!



It was starting to feel like autumn about a month ago. Then back to summer, some rain and wind, back to autumn, and now summer again. It's 78° right now, and humid too. (But look at this coming weekend Mary and Steve. Bring your sweatshirts!)

The trees are confused. They don't know whether they should change their colors or not. The young trees along the driveway are October Sunset red maples, usually among the first to change color. A little further back, showing a bit of yellow at the top is a sugar maple that might just skip the orange and go straight from yellow to brown.

Woody says he does not mind the extended growing season. Just when the humans had given up all hope of finding ripe tomatoes in their garden, the WoodMan discovered that he can (almost) fit through the fence far enough to eat them. Red or green, no preference—all good to The Wood.

And yes, the weeds are enjoying the extended growing season as well.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Autumn bits



We are getting some leaf color this year—better than last year, but going fast. We had a lot of apples, but only on a couple of trees, and they are wormier, split, and mostly on the ground after some windy nights. I might have to buy some apples to make my yearly batch of apple butter, and maybe a pie or 2.

Last year we had a whole lot of dragonflies, none of which I was able to capture in a photo. This year we have had far too many grasshoppers. The chickens are very adept at catching them, even the chicks find them easy to catch and very tasty.

We also have a bumper crop of mushrooms this year, all different colors and sizes. If I only knew how to tell which ones were edible, I could put them to use. But I don't.

And those little chicks who escaped their crate to roost higher up were back in the crate the next night. Too cold without mom to keep them warm. Then 2 warmer nights got them back up on the pole. And two of the bigger chicks were also out of the crate last night, leaving more room for Big Roo who is still sleeping in there. That is one dedicated hen to stick with these little ones for so long!


Friday, October 5, 2018

Not missing the missing skunk


Definitely not my best sunset photo. The skies aren't as pretty this time of year, or maybe it is just because it is getting too chilly to sit on the porch and watch the sun going down, waiting for the perfect moment to take a photo.

It was too dark in the coop to get a good pic of the chicks. Milestone: last night, the littlest babies graduated to the roost (about 5' off the ground) before the bigger ones. Mom and 4 chicks had been sleeping in a cat carrier on the floor of the coop. Mom huddled over them all to keep them warm in there. Here, she can only cover one with her wing. It must have been the brazen little ones who decided to make the move, on a cold (40°) night no less, because I think Mama would have preferred to keep them down below.

The big babies, who are almost full grown, are still all crammed in a different crate with their adoptive mom. Big Roo is in there with them. I think he is getting too old to make it up higher on the roost, so he has also adopted the upper crate as his sleeping space.

I am happy that all 8 chicks are alive and well. Mr Skunk has not been seen or smelled recently.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Littlest chicks and a morning moon

The 4 youngest chicks are getting big too. The 1 on the left is looking a lot like a rooster...jury is still out on the other 3. Unlike the older 4, these were all eggs from the hen in this picture—a Cream Legbar who lays blue eggs. And the daddy rooster for all of them was our Buff Orpington, which would explain why they are all varying shades of blonde.

Husband has seen, and we both have smelled a skunk out by the coop recently. Skunks are very fond of chickens. I have seen what looks like predator damage on some of the older hens (missing feathers not from molting) and the one young roo from the other bunch has some blood spots on his feathers. I also found 2 dead pidgeons near the coop.

Both moms are keeping their babies back closer to the house. Let's hope Mr Stinky doesn't find his way back here.

The bucky twins are still hanging out here, especially during the wee hours of the morning. Cyrus likes to tell us whenever buckies are trespassing. It just so happens that was at 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. last night. And I went to bed at 1 a.m. Thanks, Cyrus.

I did have the pleasure of seeing the moon on my 6 a.m. trip outside. I hope no one driving by noticed my mismatched PJs. In spite of what it looks like in this picture, it was pretty bright out there.