Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Checking e-mails before going to bed and saw one from each Sis wishing a Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas to Sisses and Bros as well as all my other (millions of) blog followers.

The Husband and I had a nice quiet Christmas at home. We did take a little trip up the hill this afternoon to visit with our neighbor Don, who also celebrated a birthday yesterday. We brought a bottle of yet-to-be-released Game of Thrones Red Ale from Brewery Ommegang, and some Beer Batter Bread that I made this afternoon. Frankly, the Saranac Pale Ale chaser was just as good as the pricey Ommegang.

The dogs had a nice walk earlier in the day, so we left them home by the woodstove. It's still plenty cold up here, so the idea of wandering in the woods with them up at Don's house did not seem appealing.

These photos are from a few short minutes ago. I tried to get pics of the sleeping dogs, but the flash awakened them. The Christmas tree looks just fine with no flash, but you can't see the pretty wreath in the window that I won at the Adorn-A-Door auction in Cooperstown.

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday of your choice, and a very happy and prosperous 2014!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

From frosty and frozen to mud and puddles

After a few weeks of really cold weather and plenty of snow, now, just in time for Christmas, everything is melting. At least the ducks are happy to be seeing unfrozen water and green grass.

I think Woody was happier with the cold. He was fascinated by all the tracks in the snow, following each and every track to the end. Only once did he find one of the track-makers, a sad looking black cat who wasn't going to back off from the big barking hound.

Since propane prices are out of control, I have been burning a lot of wood instead of using the heat. Problem is, I am not that good at keeping a steady temperature, and sometimes it gets to be over 80° in here. But that doesn't stop the Wood Man from getting up close and personal with the woodstove. I don't know how he can stay that close without burning up.

We have the tree up and decorated, most of the Christmas cards written and sent, but there are still a few things to get done before Wednesday. Unfortunately, the newspaper (where I work) needs to get printed before then as well. Work is taking up way too much of my Holly Jolly time...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Life goes on

The 3 black roosters are now safely moved into the coop with the girls. They have settled in and seem to be accepted as part of the flock, but probably not ruling the roost just yet.

We had some excitement here at Lester's Flat this week. Sophie took a wander down the middle of the road while I was walking Woody. She usually hangs out close to the house, and when I left her, she was walking toward the back, but I guess she changed her mind. She was picked up by a caring young couple. I was out searching frantically for her when they called on my cell to say they had her and were bringing her back home. Luckily both phone numbers are on her tag because I was outside and not planning on coming in until I found her.

That same day we had a little visitor, young Abe the studly goat (right). Karen, who sold us our 3 goats, brought the little guy over to spend some quality time with Lucille, who is in heat. After chasing Jack around the pen a few times, Abe found his new girl and took care of business.

Helen (top photo with bigger piggies in the background) looks a little confused by this whole situation. We are hoping that she goes into heat by tomorrow, before we have to return Abe. There are moments when they are all out there looking like best buddies, and then moments like a few minutes ago, where Helen and Abe were butting heads to the point of becoming a little bloody.

I think that means she is coming into heat, but I don't have much experience recognizing the signs. If both girls are bred, we should have kids by sometime in March.

Life goes on...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Life and death on the farm

We lost our Rooty Toot today. He bravely fought his way back from some critter attack in June, but never got back to his healthy, obnoxious self—the one you can see staring me down in the photo. He got a respiratory infection a little over a week ago, and even though he was well taken care of in the Chicken Hospital (a dog crate in the garage with food, medicated water and a heat lamp) today he gave up the fight. We buried him by the garage and planted sage over his grave.

When I was hunting for this Tough Guy photo of him, I found it was taken on the same day as this one of Soda Pop, my friend Jane's cat, February 19, 2012. When Jane passed away (we miss you, Girl!) her husband did not want to keep Soda anymore. He is hardly ever home, has 2 beagles, and is not a cat person. So I made it my job to find Soda a new home.

It took a year and a half, but I finally, about a month ago, found her a great home with Marcia in Clinton. Soda got a styling ride home in a new silver Mustang! Marcia just called this week to say how Soda was a bit shy for about 24 hours, but has very quickly settled in and become the loving cat that we knew she was going to be. Thank you, Marcia for giving that cat with the beautiful eyes a beautiful new home.

And since I was looking in the February 2012 photos, I found out that we got the 3 new red hens and the blue-egger the day after I took these other 2 photos.

So that's pretty much an even mix of the good and the bad, life and death here at Lester's Flat: Poor Mr. Roo, a Happy Soda, 4 Happy Chicks are now 4 Happy Hens, and a reminder to me that we lost the other blue-egger chick to my Big Lester only a few weeks after we got them.

R.I.P. Rooty Toot, blue-egger chick, Red Sweetie (the red hen who just disappeared), the black hen who lost her life a few months ago to some attacker that got into the Coop at night, one of the black chicks who was killed just a few days after we got him, and of course, my Big Lester who is still very much missed here at Lester's Flat. I had a dream about him just the other day... He said he is happy in Pooch Heaven...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A tale of 4 roosters

Since he was attacked back in June, Mr. Roo has been improving, but slowly. Then just last week after I returned from my NJ visit, I noticed he was looking worse than ever. I took some photos to show the vet, but I won't post them here because he looks so awful. Vet says he has a respiratory infection. It was so bad they did not think he would recover, so I was prepared to send him off to meet his maker on Tuesday morning (with the help of Don on the Hill, AKA the Terminator).

But Tuesday morning comes around and there is Rooty Toot out in the coop looking all healthy and eating and drinking like normal. Some of the girls were in there with him, I think to protect him. They told him this was his only chance to make himself look good...

So I went to the vet and picked up the antibiotics that may or may not cure him, but at least now he has a fighting chance. He is in the garage in Chicken Hospital, under the heat lamp with his food and medicated water. He is standing tall and looking pretty proud of himself.

I think we will take this opportunity to move the 3 "baby" roosters back to the real coop. That way there won't be any competition for Roo until he's back to his fighting weight—he was awfully thin when I picked him up to carry him back to the hospital!

Now the little boys will only have to defend themselves against the big girls!

Be nice, big girls!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Heading to NJ for the weekend

Going "back home" to visit with Little Sister and Jersey Girl. I took 92 photos this afternoon, hoping to get a few good ones. I did, but have no time to process them. So I leave you with a single photo of one of my 3 handsome baby roosters. Take note of all the apples on the ground. The ones that got away... The smell is absolutely delicious!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Three little pigs aren't so little after all!

We picked up the 3 new piggies, 6 weeks old, this morning from Tammy, our pig breeder in Smyrna. The second photo is of the 3 of them in the back of the haywagon (the CR-V). The 2 lucky ones got to ride in comfort in the dog crate. We thought it would be big enough for all 3, but these little piggies must have been eating up a storm because they are much larger than the ones that we picked up last year and the year before. Poor little black piggy had to be stuffed in the cat crate on the right...

As usual we had a tough time picking names for them, but we decided on Alice, Nora, and Irving for a few of our favorite authors. (Up to you to guess which authors we named them for...) Alice is the mostly red one, Nora the black one with pink go-go boots in the front, and Irving, the only boy, has the most white and the most spots.

I got out of work a little bit early yesterday due to some computer virus at the newspaper office. I came home and tried to fix up the pig shed in time for their arrival today. I got about 4 nails hammered in when I must have disturbed a wasp nest. Even though I got stung twice, I am happy that we found out before we had all the little babes in there. As much as I don't like using insecticides, there's nothing like a good can of wasp spray when you need it!

Pigs are settling in nicely. Goats are curious about their new neighbors. Dogs just went out for a walk with us and checked out the newbies.

For the first time ever, I just noticed while we were out there that 2 of the older hens were lying down in the shade with our 3 young roosters. The young ones are still in the "baby coop" at night, but young and old hang out back here by the house for most of the day. They are all free ranging together.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bushels of apples and picking up those little piggies

Last week, we (mostly I) picked 10 bushels of apples and sold them to the Fly Creek Cider Mill to use for making "a special batch" of hard cider. I had planned to bring them (reluctantly for reasons I won't mention here) to Dyn's Cider Mill, just up the road from us, but when I found out they charge $3 per gallon of cider to press our apples, and they need a minimum of 7 bushels, it seemed like a waste of picking effort (and apples). I can buy local cider for $3.99 a gallon.

The box in the photo is exactly one bushel. I found out that the easiest way to measure is to pick them in 5-gallon buckets. 2 buckets=1 bushel.

This was quite a banner year for apples here, and I probably could still pick another 20 bushels from our property, but it gets a little difficult when you get all the low-hanging apples from the close and easy trees, and then have to venture into the weedy, goldenrod-infested wild territory.

So we made $50 for easy pickins, and then I spent $20 of that in their store before I left.

I did, at least, find out that our wild apples are not all that wild, and at least some of them are probably Northern Spy apples.

I also cooked up my first batch of homemade apple butter, and am quite proud of the results! Yum!

Next weekend we pick up those baby pigs from the last post. More pics to follow!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pigs of color and the vegetable garden

Tammy, our favorite pig breeder in Smyrna, allowed us to visit the new piglets today. They were born to 2 different sows, on August 30 and 31. Because I only like "pigs of color"—no white or pink pigs for me, thanks—she was pleased to show us pigs of all different colors. The boar (Mr. Burlington is posing for his close-up) is a red/white belted pig. Moms are both black, one of them in the photo with her babies.

I am used to seeing either belted or spotted or solid color pigs, but not belted/spotted together, and not pigs with socks! Of course those are the ones we chose, the little oddballs. We got the 2 red/white belted pigs with spots (the darker red one a girl, the lighter one a boy) and the black one with long white socks in front, and white toes in the back (also a girl).

They are not even a week old yet, so we can't take them home until mid-October, but that's OK because we have vegetables still growing in the pig yard. By mid-October the plants should be pretty much done.

The rest of the garden had a rough start with the crazy spring weather and the deer and rabbits eating everything as it came up. I think The Husband has saved a single ear of corn from his usual 10' x 30' corn planting, but the pumpkins and tomatoes are really doing well. We haven't had much luck the last 2 years with the yellow and green Zephyr squash that usually does well here, but The Hub did find the big baseball bat squash out there with a few smaller ones. The cantaloupe is not from our garden, but we have a few thousand more apples to match the one on the table. Maybe the first year we can make some cider...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's a NYSHA day

On this beautiful day in the neighborhood, we took a tour of the Farmer's Museum and Fenimore Art Museum, both a part of the New York State Historical Association where we are members. 

The golf course is between the 2 museums. This photo is for Brian (hope you're feeling better!).

The Farmer's Museum is usually a great place to learn about raising pigs and chickens and goats and such, although today there were not the usual number of helpful employees.

The 2 employees we did find however, were very helpful. The Husband's cousin, young Emma, was dressed in period costume and working in the farm kitchen and the print shop for the day.

We also saw Karen, from Swamp Hill Farm where we got Lucille, Helen, and Jack, our goats. The Husband was discussing with Karen the possible future breeding of Lucille and Helen with one of her bucks. He is a farm animal addict, with no cure in sight!

Wants some cows too, doesn't he...

The final photo is of the porch brackets that I should have designed for our house. I am still disappointed in the ones that I copied from our wooden screen door that was transplanted from the NJ house. The design might be OK, but they need to be more substantial, like these. Maybe some day I will get around to replacing, or reworking the ones that are there. This will be my inspiration.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bloody Woody or Vincent van Dogh

It was a typical Woody Wednesday, where I take both dogs up for a run at Don on the Hill's. The WoodMan has been very much improved as far as staying with me while I am walking with Sophie on the leash. As soon as I sit down with Don to have a beer however, he takes off into the woods, while Sophie just hangs out with us enjoying the view and begging for cookies.

Woody came back once before covered in blood, and it turned out to be the tiniest little cut on his ear. Yesterday, he came back covered in blood with the tiniest little cut on his ear, but it would not stop bleeding. He bled all over himself, Don, Don's house, Sophie, me, the car... I kept putting pressure on the end of his ear, and he would shake his head as soon as I let go, and then we'd start all over again.

I put Sophie in the house and hosed down my big red dog, but soon realized pressure was not stopping the gushing ear, so I called the local vet, Pam Lea (not Woody's vet, mind you) and she was kind enough to take us in even though it was after hours and she was still busy with other patients.

She sedated him, wrapped him up tight, unsedated him and sent us home. Thank you Pam! He was very well behaved about not picking at the bandages, but I couldn't stand seeing him look so pathetic so I just took them off a few minutes ago. He started bleeding a bit again, but it stopped pretty quickly.

It was The Husband's idea to create the "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog". Poor Woody was already horrified that I wanted to take his photo (can you tell?)...good thing he doesn't know everybody can see him as Vincent van Dogh with the bandaged ear.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Visitors from NJ welcomed by the howling hound

We had our yearly August visit from some family members in NJ, sadly minus The Husband's mother, brother, and his wife. Brian is hopefully recovering soon from a painful sciatica attack. We miss you all and hope you're feeling better, Brian!

Sarah, Brian's daughter, did make the trip with Jason and Claire and Ella. The girls are old enough to not find us as amusing as previous years, when they stayed with us for a few days, but at least they had time to visit with us and the goats, chickens, chicks and ducks. Sarah took these goat photos with her iPhone. The phone didn't work so well out here in the sticks, but the pictures it takes are amazing! Of course it helps that she is an amazing photographer.

Woody and Sophie happily welcomed their girlfriends from last year, but Woody decided that it was his job to bark almost the entire time they were here in the house. I guess that's his idea of a party. Hard to believe we have had him a full year already! We had gotten him just a few days before the NJ visit last year. He was much better behaved for that party...I guess he didn't know he could get away with being so bad...

It's also been a year that I have been working at the Freeman's Journal/Hometown Oneonta newspaper. I design ads for them 3 days a week. The pay is not great (really not great!) but it's steady work and good people and it helps to pay those darn bills. I didn't realize how difficult it would be owning 2 homes. We are planning to put the house back on the market next summer. Losing the rental income will hurt, but losing the high taxes and crazy new fees imposed on landlords in Palmyra will definitely make up for it.

Now we just have to hope that someone can love our NJ house as much as we did.

Anybody wanna buy a house?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The final four chicks and five and three ducks

Well, probably not the last chicks we'll ever get, but these are the four out of five remaining chicks that we bought about a month ago. They were difficult to capture and close up for the night, which is how we lost one of them to some unknown predator. And they are difficult to capture on film as well, which is why I didn't get any pictures of them until today. These are the best of 32 photos. The boys and girls (we don't know what they are yet) don't stay in one place long enough to be seen.

They are still what I call peepers—meaning they still have that adorable chick peep rather than clucks or cock-a-doodle-doos. I hope to determine sometime soon if there is more than one rooster, because the lady who sold them to us said should would replace any extra roos with hens. So far they all look the same to me.

We finally have a verdict on the ducks—they are not Cayugas, not even a Cayuga cross, they are plain old mallards. But these plain old mallards are still really beautiful and fun to watch as they claim their right to be first in the pool (water buckets). Unlike the chicks, these ducks are sporting their adult feathers and I can see we have 5 males and 3 females. The males not only have those pretty green heads, but their tail feathers have little black curls that identify them as males.

And because they are now almost fully adults, well let's just say those 3 little girls are being very much bothered by the 5 big boys. We have seen them fly, just a bit, so I'm hoping that 1 or 2 of the drakes will find the creek and take a fancy to a little neighbor girl. In a perfect world...maybe...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I feel perfectly awful

That would be Mr. Roo speaking...not me. Since he was attacked by the mystery critter over a month ago, he has good days and bad. Above was a bad day...face plant on the driveway with the girls all gathered around.

He is recovering, but very slowly. Although he can hold up his head much better than before, as his feathers are coming back in, they are looking pretty ratty...poor guy...

Otherwise things are going pretty well here at Lester's Flat. After an unusually rainy start to summer, followed by an unusually hot and humid couple of weeks, we are now having almost perfect weather.

I have not had a chance to photograph the latest additions to "the farm". We bought 5 new chicks from a local farmer. The rooster was a Black Australorp, the hen that hatched them was a Speckled Sussex, and a few other hens must have snuck their eggs in there because one looks like half Golden Laced Wyandotte, and another is all blue/black like the roo.

We kept the chicks locked up for a few days, but after a week or so started letting them roam. One Tuesday when I was working late, the 5 of them just would not let The Husband capture them and put them back in their crate for the night. By the time I got home at 10:30, 4 of them were huddled on the front porch steps and the 5th was nowhere to be found. I had searched everywhere and was just giving up and coming in the house when I saw them. They were eager to be captured after losing their little companion probably minutes before that.

They have been free-ranging ever since, and are now much better about getting tucked in at night. Very cute to watch them playing with the ducks—although the ducks don't think they're very cute at all. Mostly they chase the little ones away if they get too close to their water buckets and food.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The heat, the hound, the deer, the ducks

Why did we ever let them talk us out of air conditioning? This past week has been unusually hot and humid—typical for south Jersey, but not in upstate NY.

Woody, Virginia hound boy that he is, seems to enjoy spending the hottest of days out on the back porch in the sun. When he gets too hot, he digs himself a nice big hole in the dirt and takes a nap. After a few hours out there, it's difficult to get him to come in, even when I have to go to work.

He is getting much better about not barking at every critter he sees outside. He is really good with the ducks and chickens, but the bajillion groundhogs, rabbits and deer we have here still excite that hound boy howl. His deer friend spends almost every morning just outside the windows in the living room. All the barking and howling he can muster at 4:30 am will not get a reaction from her. Turns out she is a recent momma, and maybe that's why she won't leave. The first fawn I saw was so tiny it kept tripping through the weeds trying to keep up with her. A few weeks later we saw 3 fawns out there romping around, but we're not sure if they're all related.

The ducks also do not seem to mind the heat. As long as they have a big bucket of water to play in, they are happy. They still haven't found their way down to the creek, but the creek is still running wild from all the rain so maybe that's a good thing. They stay close to home, and close together.

We thought we bought Cayuga ducks, a really pretty black and beetle green combination, but I am beginning to think that they are going to stay mostly brown, possibly more like a mallard than Cayuga. You can see in the photos that some of them are losing their adolescent feathers and their heads are turning green. These appear to be the males. The females have a different kind of brown feathering that doesn't seem to be changing much at all.

All guessing at this point to know what color they will be. No matter how they turn out, I think they are beautiful, and fun to watch!

Today the weather is improving. Turns out we don't really need that AC after all.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lots of activity, none of it good!

Poor Roo was attacked by something a few weeks ago. When The Husband found him, he was barely breathing. He has been in and out of "Chicken Hospital" (the garage) ever since. He looked pretty good a few days after, but then went back to standing with his head hanging down, or lying face down on the ground. The vet said that it could take a few months before he gets back to normal.

All three of the chickens in the top photo have been attacked by the Jack Russell across the street. Possibly he is the culprit again, or maybe the eagles nesting across the street, or the hawks, or the foxes... This was a few days after the Roo attack, and you can see he still has some blood on his neck. Red Meanie, top right, has a little humpback instead of a proper tail after her battle about a year ago.

Thursday, June 27, we had some serious rain. We woke up to a totally flooded back 40 and an inch of water in the basement as well! Our favorite builder promised us our basement would never leak, but I guess he couldn't predict the 10" of rain we had in June—about 3" of that was on Thursday night.

The bad news is that there were lots of cardboard boxes on the basement floor—all the stuff that we never unpacked after the move. The good news is that most of it was not valuable, and this has forced me to sort through and get rid of a lot.

The other good news is that it is so hot and humid outside, that it is actually pleasant to be working in the cool muddy basement.

The water is gone, but it will take a long time to clean out all the mud, especially because our wet vac is still in NJ, and my mop handle is broken.

And, speaking of NJ, we had a "water in the basement" issue there about 2 weeks ago. Good thing I left the wet vac there for the renters...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A bevy of ducks weather the storm

There is some difference of opinion as to what a group of ducks is called—a raft, paddling, flush, team, or flock—but the one I like best is a bevy. A few days into their freedom, the bevy still won't travel further than a foot or 2 outside the fence. It is pretty amusing how they all stay so close together, and they do go back inside the crate altogether at night. I have to wait until it is almost dark before I lock them up in there, or else they run out in a frenzy trying to escape the big monster—me.

We had a storm blow through just before I took these photos. They were warning of tornadoes and hail, but all we got were some black clouds and a lot of rain. I went out with the camera because we usually also get a rainbow after these fast-moving storms, but I couldn't find one tonight.

The Husband bought a new rototiller today. Farmer that he is now, he's got to get that garden going soon...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Setting free the big ducks

We've had the ducks for about a month now, and we still have all 8. At first we kept them in the dog crate, then moved them to larger quarters in last year's fenced garden, and then yesterday we started leaving the fence open for them to wander freely. Of course they haven't really taken advantage of their freedom yet—they spend most of the day in the fence.

The last photo is from May 2. You can see they still had their downy baby feathers. The other 2 photos are from today. I think these are called their juvenile feathers, meaning that they aren't the right color yet. That would explain why they don't have the "beetle-green" heads and black bodies that are typical for Cayuga ducks. The only other explanation I can think of is that they are not actually Cayugas, the price you pay for buying on Craig's List.

Now that they seem to have their flight feathers, I am hoping that they will learn to fly, as that will be their best defense against predators. Eventually we will introduce them to the creek, but we are not quite sure how to do that. For now we still lock them up in the dog crate at night.

I have been reading the duck books that were a gift from Little Sister (Thanks, Little Sis!) I hope to learn as much as I can before we send the little cuties out into the real world that is Lester's Flat.