Thursday, September 29, 2016

Autumn surprise

We have a hen who keeps getting picked on by the other chickens. She must be extraordinarily sexy, at least by rooster standards, since she's ragged from their attentions.

As a result, we're forever finding her in odd hideaways. Don even found her tucked into a crevice in our log pile one day when he went out to cut firewood.

So when I saw a hen tucked into an awkward spot between one of our barn pens and the milking stall, I thought it was this particular hen.

Two or three days went by and this hen didn't move. Wondering if she was dead or injured, I finally slipped my hand down into the spot -- and got myself soundly pecked.

Okay, different hen -- and she's setting on a whole bunch of eggs.

Holy cow, I have never seen a breed of chicken more inclined toward broodiness than these Jersey Giants. Here it is late September and she wants to hatch chicks!

Well, after some discussion and despite the looming colder weather, we decided to let her have her way. We can protect the chicks until they feather out. One of our fall projects is to expand the chicken coop and add a separate yard for growing roosters as we raise them for meat, so we should have plenty of room for a larger flock.

So this is our autumn surprise -- more baby chicks on the way.

Meanwhile, you may ask how the rest of the baby chicks are doing? (You might remember we had a hatching in late July.)

Of the twelve surviving chicks born to that mama hen, nine have made it. Two died at a few weeks of age, and sadly we just lost one this week which drowned in the cow's water tank.

But the rest are doing fine. We still can't distinguish which are hens and which are roosters, but that's okay, we'll be able to soon.

This is mama with a couple of the chicks when they were about a month old:

And here's a few I photographed yesterday:

They're currently in that awkward gangly "tween" stage, but healthy and active. We'll be giving four of the young hens to a neighbor who wants to start a flock, and raising the young roosters for the pot.

Meanwhile we're swimming in eggs. Boy these Jersey Giants are prolific layers!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What a happy (cough) close-knit (cough) family

An advertisement came through my email this morning from a company in Europe selling something called a "master charger."

According to the ad's script:
Charger for the whole family! Gone are the days of having a whole bunch of small chargers hanging from the plug sockets and extension leads. It is uneconomical, a waste of electricity and inconvenient. A stylish and affordable convenience for the home.
Okay, fine, whatever. But accompanying the ad was this photo of a (cough) happy close-knit family:

This -- this! -- is supposed to be an example of a happy close-knit family? Look at them! They're all staring at their stinkin' little screen like it holds the secret of life. They don't look at each other. They don't talk with each other, they don't laugh with each other. They're -- staring -- at -- screens. Zombies.

This photo encapsulates my continuing gripe about personal electronics. They alienate people, even supposedly happy and close-knit families.

Are modern personal electronics making things better? Are people learning to communicate more easily? Will this "master charger" improve family dynamics and make a home a happy, close-knit place?

I doubt it.

Okay, rant over.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"The country's in the very best of hands"

Some things never change.

Take a gander at this song from this 1959 production of the musical "Lil Abner":

Here are the lyrics:
Them city folks and we-uns are pretty much alike,
Though they ain't used to living in the sticks.
We don't like stone or cement, but we is in agreement
When we gets down to talkin' politics:

The country's in the very best of hands,
the best of hands, the best of hands.

The Treasury says the national debt is climbing to the sky
And government expenditures have never been so high.
It makes a feller get a gleam of pride within his eye,
to see how our economy expands,
The country's in the very best of hands.

You ought to see the congress when it's drawing up a bill,
"Where as"'s and "to wit"'s are crowded in each codicil.
Such legal terminology would give your heart a thrill.
There's phrases there that no one understands.
The country's in the very best of hands.

The building boom, they say, is getting bigger every day.
And when I asked a feller "How could everybody pay?"
He come up with an answer that made everything okay,
"Supplies are getting bigger than demands."
The country's in the very best of hands.

Don't you believe them congressmen and senators are dumb.
When they run into problems that are tough to overcome,
They just declare a thing they calls a moratorium.
The upper and the lower house disbands.
The country's in the very best of hands.

The voters are connected to the nominee,
the nominee's connected to the treasury.
When they ain't connected to the treasury,
They sits around on their thigh bones.

They sits around in this place they got,
This big congressional parking lot.
Just sits around on their you know what.
Up there they call them their thigh bones.

Them bones, them bones gonna rise again,
Gonna exercise a franchise again,
Gonna tax us up to our eyes again,
If we gets them off of their thigh bones.

The farm bill should be 89 percent of parity,
Another feller recommends it should be 93.
But 80, 95 percent, who cares about degree?
It's parity that no one understands.
The country's in the very best of hands.

Them GOP's and Democrats each hates the other one.
They's always criticizing how the country should be run.
But neither tells the public what the other's gone and done.
As long as no one knows where no one stands,
The country's in the very best of hands.

They sits around in this place they're at,
Where folks in congress have always sat.
Just sits around on their excess fat,
Up there they call them their thigh bones.

They sits around 'til they start to snore,
Jumps up and hollers "I has the floor!"
Then sits right down where they sat before,
Up there they call them their thigh bones.

Them bones, them bones gonna rise again
So dignified and so wise again
While the budget doubles in size again,
If we gets them off of their thigh bones.

The money that they taxes us, that's known as revenues,
They compound up collaterals, subtracts the residues.
Don't worry 'bout the principle and interest that accrues,
They're shipping all that stuff to foreign lands,
The country's in the very best of hands.

The country's in the very best of hands? -- yeah right.

Yep. Some things never change.

Friday, September 23, 2016

One man's trash is another man's treasure

Yesterday I noticed a neighbor's driveway was covered with pine needles. This is the time of year when pines drop old needles, so roadsides and forest floors get covered.

It suddenly came over me, in a head-clunk moment, that pine needle mulch might be what I was looking for.

You see, I've had spotty success over the years with mulching garden plants for the simple reason that I always used hay. It works splendidly through the winter, but come spring, the hay grows -- and suddenly the bed is overrun with weeds. So I stopped mulching.

But pine needle mulch? Duh! Needles won't grow.

So I called the elderly lady who lives at this address and asked if I could rake her driveway and tote away the needles. I received a heartfelt approval to take as many needles as I could possibly want.

So I loaded up the car with a hay sled, hay fork, and lawn rake, and off I went.

In just a few minutes, I'd raked about a quarter of the driveway.

This gave me piles that dwarfed the hay sled...

...and there was still three-quarters of the driveway left to do.

I raked up the rest...

...and made a big pile off the side of the driveway. I wasn't sure how much I'd need, so if nothing else the needles were out of the way.

Then it was home with my "treasure," another person's trash.

Pine needles, of course, are slightly acidic, which is just what blueberries like.

So all of our younger bushes got a nice layer of mulch.

From this first load, I had enough needles to mulch 2 1/2 beds, so I went back and got more needles, enough to mulch all four beds (the fourth bed is not in this picture). I think it looks very handsome.

I couldn't be more pleased with this new (to me) mulch. In doing some online research, it turns out pine-needle mulch can be used on "blueberries, cranberries, garlic, mint, onions, potatoes, raspberries, and strawberries." (More online info here, here and here.)

I've already planted the garlic, so I'll gather enough needles to mulch the garlic bed. The strawberries are too overgrown to mulch, but I may be able to mulch the raspberries next spring when I clear out last year's growth. I'm cleaning up beds and getting ready to plant potato onions (which are planted in the fall) so I'll mulch those as well.

Yippee! Treasure indeed! This dear lady will have the cleanest driveway in the state.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Watch out for those zombies

Monday morning at precisely 4:38 a.m. -- I know this because I looked at the clock -- I was awakened by the sound of a gunshot on the road by our pasture. Then a second shot. Then a third.

This is about the time every morning our neighbor D. leaves for work. "I'll bet D. got a porcupine," I mumbled sleepily to Don.

Porcupines are a menace to pets and livestock, as everyone knows, and D. -- an expert hunter with over 40 years of experience -- has little tolerance for them. He will routinely dispatch them whenever he comes across one.

Later that afternoon, D. called for another reason, and mentioned in passing we should keep our dog Lydia out of our pasture until we searched it for a dead porcupine. "It was dark when I shot it," he told Don, "but I'm pretty sure it went under your pasture fence."

So for our evening walk with Lydia, rather than letting her loose in the enclosed pasture as we normally do, we leashed her up and walked along the road instead.

I was vigilant the porcupine might not be in the pasture -- it's pretty tightly fenced -- but instead might be on the side of the road, and I didn't want Lydia tangling with it. She certainly knew something was up, as she sniffed intently along portions of the road. But nothing happened until we were heading back to the house.

Suddenly she lunged toward the roadside so hard and so fast that I started skidding on the gravel, unable to stop her. "Hold me hold me HOLD ME HOLD ME!" I shrieked to Don as I flailed on the gravel. He grabbed my hand, then grabbed the leash and started reeling Lydia in.

It was a moment too late. She had spotted the animal, invisible in the tall grass. Our dog came away with a snootful of quills from the porcupine -- which was still alive.

"Take her back to the house," Don told me. "I'll take care of the porcupine."

Poor Lydia was whining and trying to swipe the quills off her face. I pulled her along as a shot rang out behind me, then a second, then a third.

In the house I stripped off my coat and told Younger Daughter, "Lydia found the porcupine." We gathered scissors and pliers as Don came in.

We tried pulling the quills. We tried cutting the tips of the quills off, then pulling them. We tried and tried and tried ... and failed.

I can't blame Lydia for being so agitated, but the fact remained simply couldn't keep her still long enough to yank them out of her face. So, without a better option (since, of course, our county's vet office was closed since it was late evening), we bundled her into the car (with Younger Daughter in back to keep her calm) and I made a mad dash into Post Falls to the emergency vet clinic.

I've been to this clinic once before when our old dog Gypsy got a face-full of quills when a porcupine got in our yard. Poor Gypsy was far worse off than Lydia -- Gypsy looked like she was sporting a full mustache and beard and had a mouthful of hay after her encounter. By contrast, Lydia only had about 20 or 30 quills, versus the hundreds Gypsy had.

Normally the drive to Post Falls takes me an hour and a quarter. I was there in 45 minutes. I'm thankful I wasn't pulled over for speeding.

Like Gypsy the time we ran her to the vet, Lydia was actually quite calm in the car. It's like she knew we were getting her help. However as we pulled up in front of the vet's office, I told Younger Daughter, "Put her leash on and hold onto it while I open the back hatch."

It's a good thing she did, because the moment the hatch opened, Lydia leaped out and would have bolted into the night.

The vet clinic is wonderfully sympathetic and professional. Their services cost a premium, but believe me, when your beloved dog is in pain, you don't care. They whisked Lydia in back, anesthetized her, and pulled all the quills out. Here are just a few of the quills the vet collected:

Then they gave her a shot of anti-sedative to bring her out of her sleep. Poor Lydia came stumbling out of the back room of the clinic, eyes sunken, looking dazed and confused. But she was quill-free. I lifted her into the car and started driving home. She immediately sacked out. Younger Daughter snapped a pic.

When we got home around 10 p.m., Lydia stumbled into the house and stood, swaying. Slowly she sank down, first her hind quarters, then her front paws, then her nose, and slept where she was.

Yesterday Don and I went for our usual daily walk. We looked for the porcupine, since we wanted to later dispose of it so no other neighborhood dog got tangled with it.

The porcupine wasn't there. We carefully picked our way around the immediate vicinity -- and I found it. Still alive.

Don told me to step away, which I did. I was physically nauseous at the thought of the porcupine still being alive more than 24 hours after it was shot -- six times. I don't like any animal to suffer.

Don aimed and shot the porcupine, once. Twice. Three times. Four times.

"Those things are tanks," he said after he confirmed the beast was finally dead. "It's like killing zombies."

We still haven't collected the carcass, but we plan to today.

Meanwhile, I picked up a magnetized business card from the emergency vet clinic. It will stay on our refrigerator. Clearly we never know when we'll need it.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Windstorm photos

These photos are of the windstorm we had in November 2015, and are for consideration with an article I submitted to Countryside Magazine. They are posted so the editor can pick which ones she wants.

Photo 1 (131 KB): Stock tank, kept brim-full for as long as we could

Photo 2 (128 KB): Strong wind, blowing faucet water sideways

Photo 3 (134 KB): Laying in extra firewood

Photo 4 (127 KB): Dead tree across our compost pile

Photo 5 (139 KB): Base of the dead tree blown down across compost pile

Photo 6 (1484 KB): Trees down in our woods

Photo 7 (1484 KB): More trees down in our woods

Photo 8 (3104 KB): Filling water barrels at our neighbor's

Photo 9 (2985 KB): Getting ready to siphon water to the stock tanks

Photo 10 (2223 KB): Hanging an oil lamp in the chicken coop

Photo 11 (2104 KB): Oil lamp in chicken coop

Photo 12 (2283 KB): Lamp light at night

Photo 13 (430 KB): Evening board games by lamplight

Photo 14 (2916 KB): Insulating a water barrel for the night to keep from freezing

Photo 15 (2870 KB): Oil lamps on standby

Photo 16 (2882 KB): Filling oil lamps

Photo 17 (2868 KB): Putting refrigerator food outside to preserve it

Photo 18 (2865 KB): Cracking open chest freezers during cold weather

Photo 19 (2871 KB): Three-pack flashlights from Costco

Photo 20 (2084 KB): Flashlights hanging by the door

Photo 21 (2438 KB): A neighbor's shed got smashed by the wind