Country Living Series

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Nesting robins in the barn

Lately, in an effort to discourage wandering early-morning coyote attacks on the chickens, I've taken to setting up my computer in the barn for a couple of hours when I release the birds just after sunrise. So far it's worked to thwart additional attacks. (But no opportunity for a clean shot, however; there's a reason coyotes are termed "wily.")

Setting myself up in the barn isn't quite the hardship it implies. Early mornings have always been my favorite time of day anyway, and since the weather is finally warming up, the mornings are pleasant. The air is fresh and clean. The birds are singing. The early sun shines on the budding leaves and flowers. I bring my computer speakers so I have my Baroque music quietly playing. I have hot tea. Life is good.

This early-morning time allows me to capture some nice pics of the chickens I might not otherwise get, including the obligatory "rooster on the compost pile" shots...

...though since the compost pile elevates the chickens, it also allows them to spot the coyote early, when he (or she) is slinking around the edge of the woods, casing the joint. Paying attention to their alarm clucks is important (situational awareness!).

The nice thing about camping out in the barn for couple hours each morning is the little things that take place right under my nose I might otherwise not have noticed. Case in point, the robins who are nesting under the awning.

Robins have always been among my all-time favorite birds, so it's fun to watch both parents work hard to bring food to their offspring.

Look at those gaping gullets.

But I wanted to see the babies, so I leaned a ladder against the eave.

The mother flew away in alarm and watched me suspiciously from nearby.

Nests really are amazing construction.

Here's what the hatchlings looked like on May 19:

And on May 22:

I sometimes catch the robins in moments of leisure, such as this fellow grooming himself between warbling his "teereyo" call.

Sometimes the mother dozes while waiting for the father to return with a meal.

Then when he shows up, she steps aside so he can feed the babies.

Then -- I wasn't sure I was seeing this right until I confirmed it online -- after feeding, the parents remove the babies' waste. According to Wikipedia: "Waste accumulation does not occur in the nest because adults collect and take it away. Chicks are fed, and then raise tails for elimination of waste, a solid white clump that is collected by a parent prior to flying off." I've watched this, but to be honest it looks like the parents swallow the waste globule, not fly away to dispose of it. I've seen this over and over.

This nest is located in a wonderfully sheltered spot, away from wind and rain. But we have magpies around here, famous for eating nestlings. I've seen bluebirds and robins lose their broods in the past, which is so sad. I'm hoping this family is successful in raising their babies.

Friday, May 19, 2017

For ladies only

The website for the reusable feminine products we use, Naturally Cozy, has been revamped and updated and looks positively lovely.

As I’ve written in the past, we transitioned to reusable feminine products ten years ago. Our original pads are still going strong. We haven’t purchased store-bought disposables in all those years. With three females in the house, can you imagine how much money we’ve saved? And frankly, in terms of preparedness, there is absolutely no finer option for women.

Their products go beyond just monthly needs. They carry daily panty liners, cotton nursing pads, incontinence products, post-partum pads, washable toilet wipes, hand towels, and even flannel “clutches” to carry personal items discretely. Additionally, since this is a home-based business, they are sensitive and responsive to customer requests, so if you have a special need or a product you’re looking for, just ask!

Please go take a look at their website, and tell the folks at Naturally Cozy I said “hi.”

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Near miss

This morning around 7:45 am -- in other words, broad daylight -- I heard a commotion outside with the chickens. I glanced out the window and saw several hens fleeing down the driveway, cackling in alarm.

I was outside in a flash, in time to see a coyote blatantly clambering over the compost pile toward the fence into the woods. "Hey, get out of here!" I shouted, and ran toward it.

It disappeared from sight. I stalked back and forth, checking for any injured birds; and since there was an enormous pile of feathers at the base of the compost pile, I figured the predator got his meal.

But not so fast. It seems the coyote had grabbed a rooster by his tail and got nothing more than a mouthful of feathers. Remarkably, the rooster was unhurt. Here's our boy with his libido reduced (I also associate rooster tails with mojo). That is one lucky bird.

They say cats have nine lives, but I'm calling chickens on this one. The rooster may have lost his pride and joy, but he gained his life. Fair trade-off, I'd say.

And we're keeping the shotgun handy.

Monday, May 15, 2017

How to hate your husband

Want to read a just plain weird Mother's Day article? Try this:

You Will Hate Your Husband After Your Kid Is Born

This is some of the strangest drivel I've read in a long time. We are informed:
On this upcoming day of celebrating mothers, here’s a cautionary note, something many mothers-to-be don’t expect when they’re expecting: If you have a husband, you will hate him when your kid is born. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t be fooled by the pictures on your social media feed of your friends serenely beaming with their infants. When they’re not letting you know they’re #SoBlessed, they’re probably fighting.
(First of all, note the phrase, "IF you have a husband." Now you know the direction this is coming from.)

"Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise," says the author. Um, sweetheart, I'm here to tell you otherwise. You're treating your husband like dirt, and it's your fault.

So new parents are stressed, overtired, and having trouble adjusting to the constant demands of a seven-pound helpless human being. Um, what else did you expect when a new baby came into your formerly kid-free lives? That you'd be able to treat it like a puppy, lock it in the pantry, and go out to dinner?

The article seems to center on the shocking reality that women are much more attuned to the needs of their baby than men are ("A baby’s cry was the No. 1 sound most likely to wake a woman, it didn’t even figure into the male top ten, lagging behind car alarms and strong wind"). Again, duh. The author acts like this is something scandalous and disgraceful.

Men aren't mothers. Men don't carry the baby in utero. Men don't breastfeed the baby. Men are protectors and defenders, not nurturers. (Please don't misunderstand, I know men care for their babies; what I'm saying is, their biology is geared for defense/protection, not the sensitive nuances of infant care.)

The author of this article seems to spend a lot of time explaining why her man is scum because he's not as responsive to the immediate needs of a newborn as she is (she terms it "colossal asymmetry"), and why she decides he's nothing more than a knuckle-dragging caveman:
I thought I had married an evolved guy—one who assured me, when I was pregnant, that we would divide up the work equally. Yet right after our baby was born, we backslid into hidebound midcentury gender roles as I energetically overmet my expectations.
Sheesh, sister, suck it up. What on earth did you expect? Biology doesn't conform to feminism. Women are mothers, not men.

My advice: Get some immediate counseling for postpartum depression before you send what sounds like a very decent man fleeing into the night. Then read this article.

Okay, rant over.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

To all you mother hens out there.....

Happy Mother's Day to all you mother hens!

Here's my WND column for the weekend, entitled "Is it Mother's Day -- or Woman's Day?" (with the obligatory troll in the comments section).

In celebration of our own Mother's Day, we have a hen setting, the first one of the year.

She started out with only two eggs, so I shoved five more under her.

With the proclivity of this breed to go broody, I expect we'll have at least a few more sitting on eggs as the summer progresses. A sustainable breed -- gotta love it.

(UPDATE: Broken link fixed; thank you!)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Preparedness expo -- great time!

Sorry for the silence over the last week -- it's been very busy for us!

Last Friday, I rented a car and took myself down to Prosser, Washington for the small but excellent Northwest Preparedness Expo.

I left a bit earlier than I otherwise needed to because I wanted to see something I've always wanted to see: Steptoe Butte.

Wikipedia rather clinically defines this landmark as "a quartzite island jutting out of the silty loess of the Palouse hills," but in fact it's the highest point for miles around overlooking the beautiful rolling hills of the region. Just about every magnificent panoramic shot of the Palouse you've ever seen was taken from the top of Steptoe Butte, including many works by my favorite regional artist, Andy Sewell.

The day was cloudy and grim. Steptoe Butte isn't much to see from below...

...but the views from the top were unspeakably spectacular. No wonder it's a state park.

I'll do a more comprehensive blog post on Steptoe Butte in the future. I want to go back when more fields have been planted and the weather is better. Besides, I had to hit the road for Prosser.

The drive down was uneventful until a few miles outside the Tri-Cities. Suddenly I hit a wall of traffic, which -- despite it being 4:30 pm on a Friday afternoon -- took me totally but surprise. It's been a long time since I've been in a traffic jam. It stretched for miles.

At one point, bored out of my gourd, I took a photo of my speedometer.

Repaving crews were the culprits, as it turned out.

I finally arrived an hour late at the expo site, checked in, had dinner with the rest of the group who was putting it on (late, since the caterers also got caught in the traffic jam), then headed out. Just as I left, the setting sun broke through the clouds and illuminated the treeless hills across the valley. Magnificent.

The next day was chilly but sunny (actually, the coolness was in welcome contrast to last year's roasting temperatures). The expo is held on a large private farm. This barn hosted some of the speakers...

...and this "big top" tent housed the vendors.

It was a day with many speakers. I was able to attend a few workshops and visit some vendors. I love attending these types of events because everyone is so like-minded.

At the end of the day I returned to the farm of the charming family who was putting me up. I loved watching their critters.

We stayed up talking until midnight, long past my bedtime. The next morning I hit the road early, since I had to return the rental car by noon.

If anyone has a chance to attend a preparedness expo, I highly recommend it. They're invariably informative and useful events to learn a lot about the subject.