Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chicken Saddle

Road Runner has been looking a little rough lately. The General seems to favor her over the other hens and her back and feathers are getting torn up.

I have been looking for a chicken saddle locally for a couple weeks now, with no luck. Rather than ordering one online and waiting for it to be made and shipped, I decided to go ahead and make one myself. I got instructions off another blog: Back to Basic Living and spent last night making my own version. I didn't have any snaps, so I used velcro and it seems to work just fine. Here are the results:

Anyone else that has used these, have you had a hard time getting your hen to keep them on? Road Runner has messed hers up a couple times... she can't actually get it off, but she won't keep it under her wings and it ends up bunched up at the top of her back. I am wondering if it will just take her some time to get used to it? Any thoughts  about this are or suggestions are welcome!

Fair Fun

Sorry I have been strangely silent lately. We have been getting tons of rain and I have been stuck inside most of the time wishing I was outside. We did visit the Grand Forks fair last weekend and there were lots of animals, both in the petting zoo and the 4H exhibits. I enjoyed visiting with the different animals, but I did feel sorry for some of them. I question the health of several of the petting zoo animals. I have no idea if they travel with the fair or if they belonged to local farmers? Either way, some of them didn't look too good. I have to admit, I have always LOVED the fair- it is so exciting to go and see the sights, eat the fair food and ride the rides. I love seeing the 4H exhibits and the livestock shows!! But now that I have a hobby farm, I was more sensitive to the conditions and health of the animals on display.

There were lots of goats, which I LOVE!! Many different breeds were represented, and I wanted to bring home more than a few of them.

There was one kid that was adorable and LOVED to be scratched & pet. I swear he was smiling! If he was small enough, I probably would have snuck him home... ;0)

I have never had a strong desire to have a cow... until I met this one:

Despite his super snotty nose and his foot long tongue (I am guessing), I fell in love with this adorable guy. He would dart his tongue out and grab the feed from inside the cup. It was so funny! (Plus I love his hair!)

There were chicks hatching in a glass cage during the entire fair... I wasn't crazy about that either... Lots of fluffy yellow chicks on display. I wonder what they do with them all after the fair is over? They only had newly hatched chicks there, so I can't help but wonder what happens to them. I also wonder how healthy they are. It makes me sad.

We did have fun though! We rode the rides, ate the food and watched the 4H livestock shows. Annie got her face painted and looked adorable!

I am scared of heights, but overcame my fear and rode the Ferris Wheel a total of 4 times! (which if you know me, you know that is HUGE for me)

Funnel Cake? YES PLEASE!!

One more thing... I convinced Matt to ride the mechanical bull. He needs more practice.

Yeah, we will go back next year.

A good time was had by all!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chicken Scratch

Hen and the Art of 
Chicken Maintenance
Reflections on Raising Chickens by Martin Gurdon

I picked up this book recently at the library. The title suggested it was a book about raising chickens, but in fact it was a humorous account of Martin's experience raising backyard poultry. The book "follows the Gurdon family through the ups and downs of this wonderful hobby." There were times when I laughed out loud and got some raised eyebrows from Matt. I would re-read the passage out loud to him, and he would join me in laughter. It was so much fun to read, and I will admit, when I was finished, I went back and read some of my favorite parts again!!

If you enjoy chicken humor and reading about other people and their poultry adventures, I highly recommend this book! I will warn you: there are a few crude bits but if you can look past them, it is very funny and entertaining to read. It is informative too!

If you want to find out more about this book, you can go to Martin's website

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Updates & Gardening Progress

I have had a busy few days. 
Last weekend Fluffy had her babies, 8 of them!! 
No wonder she looked liked she swallowed a watermelon.
Sadly, 2 of them didn't make it, but the other 6 seems to be doing well.

On Friday night, we went over to our friends house for a bonfire & Smores

and we had the best evening!

I have to admit, I had a little bit of garden envy when I saw Liz's HUGE flourishing 
garden, but it just made me want to work on mine more. 
I also enjoyed her chicken coop- I love her design! 
The walls are made with old wooden screened panels (painted green) 
and attached together to make a cool rustic farmhouse style chicken enclosure.
I loved hanging out with all her friendly chickens too! 

The kids had a blast playing together, the moms loved the female company, 
and even the men seemed to be enjoying themselves!

Over the weekend we had gorgeous weather, 
so we spent some more time prepping the garden.
Matt tilled it again, and the kids helped me plan the rows and start planting. 

We got the squashes & zucchini's planted so far.

Since I moved to North Dakota, I have heard repeatedly how great our soil is. 
It is thick and black and rich.
I am counting on this extra help from the soil, 
as I have never been known to have a green thumb...
The desire is there, but the know-how is lacking!
I will be so proud of myself if my first attempt at a vegetable garden is successful 
and we can actually eat & enjoy the fruits of our labor.
(pun intended)

6 rows down, 18 to go...

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Cat Whisperer

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved cats.
When I was 6 years old, I found a kitten in my neighbor's yard, scooped her up and brought her home. I begged my mom to let me keep her & was so excited when she agreed. I named my first cat "Kelly". She was black and white and perfect! (It didn't occur to me at the time that Kelly might have actually belonged to the neighbors, and they never said anything either.)
The first time she got pregnant, she came to my bedroom window when she went into labor. It was dark and raining outside and I was sound asleep. I woke up to her crying and I just knew. I opened my window and she squeezed in and proceeded to have her babies in the middle of my bed.

Me (on the left) & my friend Karma holding Kelly

Ever since I have always had a special relationship with cats.
Some people are dog people, I am a cat person.
This was back before the campaign to spay and neuter pets, so I witnessed and helped with many litters during my childhood. A few year's later, one of our cats, Blacky (Kelly's daughter) had her babies on my 10th birthday. I was spending the night with my Nana to celebrate and when I came home, she had had 5 kittens in our pot belly stove. I was so excited that she had them on my birthday- it was like receiving 5 furry presents from her! One of the babies was Fuzzy, who still to this day was one of my favorite cats of all time. I am sure our relationship was strengthened by the fact that we shared a birthday! ;0)

Me & Fuzzy

It has become a joke at our house that I am a "Cat Whisperer". Matt loves to tease me because the cats and I seem to have a special bond and I always have kindof a 6th sense when it comes to their needs. I know when they are sick, I know when they are happy or sad. I don't think much about it, I just know. We have barn cats now, and they come to me when they are going into labor. All 3 of our gals have done it. When it is their time, they let me know and I assist them. Usually I just sit next to them quietly, but occasionally I help if needed. I always take it as quite a compliment that they want me there. I always assume they will go hide somewhere and we will see them in a few weeks once the babies are older. I assume wrong.
Today I was proven wrong again. We have been waiting for Fluffy to have her babies for weeks. Fluffy lived here at the farm before we did, she came with the farm. She has always been sweet to us, but also a little standoffish. Everyday I go and search for her and her babies, thinking she had them in the night and hid them somewhere in one of the 8 outbuildings here... but then she shows up waddling, pregnant as ever. I guess I was wasting my time! Today I was sitting in the living room and I heard her crying through the window. I ran outside and Fluffy was sitting in the rain looking miserable. I knew- it was time. I gently picked her up and brought her into the sun porch to a box I had waiting for her. She was purring and happy. About 10 mins later, the contractions started. She labored throughout the afternoon and I stayed by her side. 5 kittens later, she is resting with a content look on her face. Matt was at work, so I sent him a text letting him know that Fluffy was having her kittens. He asked me how I knew and I told him that she came and got me, his response was to laugh and call me "The Cat Whisperer".

Fluffy and her babies- A proud Mama!!

**Update: Apparently Fluffy wasn't through birthing, she finished out with 8 babies!!! Here is a picture of the little ones:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When Will Fluffy Pop?!

This is Fluffy. 

Fluffy came with the farm. 
We have no idea where she came from, or how old she is. 
What we do know is that she was here when we came & she has no desire to leave. 
She is actually quite sweet, so I am sure she was somebody's pet at some point. 
I love cats, and the more the merrier (as long as they are outside!)

(look at Fluffy's face! Priceless!)

A couple months ago, Julianna asked me if Fluffy was pregnant. 
My response? "No, she is just fluffy" HA!
I guess the joke was on me, because Fluffy is VERY pregnant.
For at least the last 3 or 4 weeks
we have expected her to go into labor at any moment.
As of today, she is still pregnant... and she is HUGE!

We all have bets about how many kittens she will have. 
Hopefully we will know soon!

Gardening & Worming

Weeding Stinks!
But chickens love to come and help.

I never realized how much work a vegetable garden takes!
I started late to begin with.
I underestimated the amount of preparation and work.
Then I got this stupid Tendinitis, and now my left & dominant arm is basically useless.
Even just spraying roundup causes me pain.
Luckily, I have several servants that I can get help from.

Julianna, & I went out to the garden and we started weeding.
Anabelle started raking the dirt ("so the worms would come out").
It wasn't long before the rumors reached the coop,
and 1 by 1 the chicks wandered over looking for a handout.
They were in luck- the worms were abundant!

As the sun beat down and the afternoon wore on,
different chicks came and went.
They ate their fill and then found somewhere better to be.

The Silkies especially seemed to appreciate the help in locating the worms,
I have heard & read that breeds with feathered feet don't forage as easily,
so they were happy to be hand-fed!

Hours later, and exhausted, we called it a day.
Lots of work, not a lot of obvious progress.
Don't tell anyone, but I am starting to give up hope of growing anything from seeds.
I have a feeling it is just too late...
I might sneak over to the nursery and get seedlings that I can plant in the garden
and then pretend that I have a green thumb after all.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Spring Kittens!

The great thing about living on a farm in spring, is that there is always new life!
Yesterday amidst the sadness over the goat's death and the funeral, we got our first batch of barn kittens! As I was walking outside, I noticed Lulu looked considerably smaller... I was surprised because we thought she still had a couple weeks to go in her pregnancy and we were SURE that Fluffy (in her hugeness) would be the first to go into labor. Lulu sure fooled us! I saw her dart back into the sun porch and dive into a box. Sure enough- she had her kittens and didn't even tell us about it! (and she had them inside our sun porch- probably why she kept it a secret) Three healthy, fat, roly poly balls of fur; 1 solid white and 2 black & white. They are adorable! I quickly made her a comfy box with an old sheet and moved her and her family into it so they would be safer and more comfortable. I will even let them stay in the sun porch for now, until they are big enough to get out of the box on their own and then I will move them out to the barn or the garage. When Lu stepped outside today I shot a quick photo of the trio:

I also took this picture with her in there with them, 
but the flash kindof washed them out especially the little white one:

It will be fun to watch them grow. 
And hopefully Fluffy will have her babies soon too!

OH! and look at these wildflowers.... aren't they GORGEOUS?!?!
My sweet friend Julie made this beautiful bouquet and gave them to me. 
LOVE THEM! Thanks Julie :)

(they smell good too!)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Funeral

This weekend was difficult for us. 
There seemed to be constant reminders of our baby goats...
We decided as a family to have a small funeral for them 
and to start a pet graveyard on the farm. 
Until now we have always had "cremations"-  mainly because they are easy 
and the animals in question have all been small.
This time we just couldn't do it. 
We were too emotionally caught up in the situation and 
we all agreed that the girls deserved a proper burial. 
So we walked around the farm and picked out the perfect spot, 
at the edge of the property, near the woods & under a tree. 

We had our first funeral and burial at The Funny Farm today. 
Matt dug the hole, and Simon searched for some rocks to mark the site. 
Julianna and I decided to use one of their baby bottles as a vase 
and placed some pansies in it from the garden.
When the time came, none of us had dry eyes. 
But we all said goodbye. 

The kids asked if they could write a little message on one of the rocks, 
so we each took a sharpie and added our thoughts.
Even Poe joined the event and reverently watched from the sidelines. 

I don't know how long it will take us to move on.
People have asked us if we are going to get new goats... 
I am sure we will, I just don't know when.
I am amazed at how much we grew to love them in the very short time we had them.
They touched all of us and we will miss them so much.

We called them #1 and #2 during the time they were with us.
We could never decide on the perfect names!
We talked about it daily and we constantly came up with new possibilities...
but none of them ever seemed just right.
So we always called them #1 & #2. 

#1 was timid and always took her time eating;
we were proud of her if she would eat more than a few ounces at a time! 
She also had a habit of sucking on our clothes. 
I would feel a gentle tug on my pants or shirt, and I would look down 
to find her nuzzled up to me sucking on a hem.... 
when I would go back inside there would be a wet circle on my clothing 
and I would have to change if I was going anywhere. 
It was actually quite endearing!!
She was not a leader, but would bravely follow her sister on any adventure.
She loved to be held and cuddled and like any baby, 
she would cry if she was left alone. 
She would give me baby goat kisses by rubbing her nose on my face 
and her eyes were always full of love and trust for  us.

#2 was bold and adventurous!
From the time we first brought them home, 
she was the leader and would always protect her sister. 
She loved to eat and could suck down a bottle in seconds flat! 
(because of that the kids would always say "I get to feed #2!!)
She was always the first to explore any new situation.
She would climb the tree stumps, try out the new goat door, jump into our laps.
She knew her sister would tag along.
#2 loved attention and she would always know when we were 
coming out to the barn to feed her, 
and she would cry out anxiously to us before she could even see us coming! 
We loved to hear her excited and impatient baby goat cries 
and it would always bring a smile to my face. 

We loved the late night feedings, and even though every night around midnight 
I would have to talk myself into going out to the barn, 
I ALWAYS enjoyed it once I got there. 
The girls were so excited to eat and so lovable and cuddly, 
that we would want to stay all night with them. 
After they finished their bottles, 
they would cuddle up in our laps and contentedly fall asleep. 
When we would finally put them down, 
they would act surprised and cry to be picked back up.

#1 & #2 brought nothing but joy and delight to everyone they met.
They didn't live long, but I am sure they enjoyed the time they had.
They were amazing pets and we will always regret not getting more time with them.
It is still hard to believe they are really gone...

Today as I was looking through my pictures, 
I found this one that I snapped on a whim. 
It was taken the day before they died.
I had walked out to the barn to feed the chickens, and this is what I saw:

This is the last picture of them I took.
Goodbye baby girls.

PS: thanks for all the kind comments this past weekend, they have been encouraging to read!