Monday, April 2, 2018

Signs of Spring

*  Mid March, 2018  Planting an entire flat of Pansies and Johnny Jump Ups.  Then G brought home a gallon jasmine, a white low flowering thing (what?), a pair Renunculus (bright red and bright yellow).  Stuck some of the plants that have been on the front stoop for months into the ground.

* March 17-18  We bought and spread a dozen bags of cedar mulch.  That always looks so nice?!!  Stuck a new box of solar lights in along the walkway.  Cut back dead stalks on the mums, etc.  Cleaned up the mess on the silver shelves.  Stuck all G's gardening tools in the shed. Gave the chickens a bale of straw to spread (that also looks lovely).  Rearranged all the pots and swept.  Threw away most of the old spider-infested doggy tennis balls.

*Kicked the chickens out of the garden. ((Wonder when we end up doing this each year? Are we early? Late? Or roughly on the same schedule as always?))

*Fenced off the sun chokes in the chicken yard since the batch in a pot nearby is sprouting already, and repaired the shade cloth up over the day yard in the spots where the wind had torn it loose and peeled it back). Stood on the step-stool and tugged it back into place, then fastened it down with zip ties.

 *Watering. Getting the beds ready to plant things

*Chopped down the zinnia stalks and started prepping the cement-block-flower-border

*Planted some chard seeds and a few kale (Must remember to water them)

*Emptied out the front compost bin.  We had left it to "cook" for 2 months, so had high hopes.  Alas, it had gone anaerobic all through it.  Too wet.  Smelled nasty.  I put most of it into the wheelbarrow then put it in the walkway between 2 raised beds to keep the dogs out of it until I can decide what to do next.  Maybe just turn it out, fluff it, and put it back in and cover?  Left about a quarter of it in the bin itself.  Fluffed it, spun it.  Check in next week and see how it's doing?

 *Still struggling to get used to Daylight Saving time, since the family visit allowed me to be lazy. Noticed this morning that the light has almost caught up to us. (Lovely. What a blessing). 6:08AM a faint waterwash the color of store-bought cantaloupe (i.e. slightly unripe). It was oddly soothing not to be alone in the dark struggling to wake up and face the week.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Late November

KILLING FROST: Stacked the new bales of straw at the back of the coop in the nick of time.  Saturday night (Nov 18) it was 27 degrees when we went to bed at 10pm.  Poor chickens!!  I went out with a flashlight and plugged in the plant mat.  It was 19 degrees when we got up a bit before 6.  

The Mulberry leaves turned a dark sullen avocado shade and started raining down.  (There were huge 'puddles' of them up and down the street where other people's trees had done the same thing.  Always makes me think of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree...  Sunday I made sure to stuff feedsacks full of straw and put them up on top of their roost box to help insulate/ cover up the air holes.  Also put a heavy towel over the inside window in the L.  We bought 2 12' chunks of polycarbon roofing and started putting those up along the north side.  Have gaps that will need plastic, and still need to do the door and the small east side.  But it was definitely better.  >Which was a good thing because Sniglet has huge bald patches, poor baby.  And Monday morning, it was 17 degrees!  Mind you, very disorienting because when I got up this morning (Tuesday), I did a double-take:  46!  I wondered if maybe one of the doves wasn't roosting on it?  That kind of range has to be terribly hard on everything:  plants, trees, grass, bugs, birds, mice....

(Not pictured).  The Cottonwoods have now passed from glorious, blazing yellow to browns, and are starting to fall.  The Elms are shedding everywhere.  There was some wind through the night; they were suddenly threadbare this morning.


The arugula seeds from a season or two ago has sprouted up in a low spot--where dogs and people have worn a path... where any extra water drains and settles.  I thought it was charming, in a shaggy, unkempt sort-of way, and thought the chickens would enjoy eating it.  So I have been mindful to carry it a can full of water now and then.  It survived the bitter temperatures over the weekend--I noticed this morning it was still thriving.  *What a hearty plant.  Wish I liked the taste....*

Pissy Lola.  She's starting to look pretty ratty too. ~A couple weeks behind Butterknife/ aka Sniglett.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Flavia & Butterknife/ Sniglet molting, Lola starting...

I never remember the timing from year to year, so I can't say if each hen has a predictable pattern?  Butterknife/ Sniglet, the small, feisty Buff Orpington. looks awful like she had a run-in with a cat.  Her neck is bare, she bald patches all over, and just the pitiful, beat-up remnants of a tail.

Flavia started a bit earlier.  She also looks terrible, but there's hope: her tail feathers are halfway out (or "in"?) again.  Hens really look bedraggled without those perky butt feathers.

I noticed this morning that Big Fluffy Lola had a wing feather sticking out at a bizarre angle.  They sometimes hang like that for hours, like a 6-year-old with a loose tooth. (I wonder if the hens make fun of each other?!  Whenever I hear people being wistful about the free and easy life of birds I just roll my eyes, and think how itchy and miserable it must be to molt.) 

With all the stray feathers, the yard is starting to look like a hawk caught something.  Herbella, the stately, old Silver Lace Wyandotte went through the process a month ago.  She looks fabulous!  But there are black and white feathers still caught in all the corners of the coop, now being rapidly joined by apricot plumes and the assorted russet one with black and white specks. 

New load of straw

Cottonwoods at peak

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Good-bye Earheart (24 Apr to 6 Nov 2017)

I'm not sure I'm ready to talk about it yet....  She flew over the fence at the wrong time and place, and the dogs got her.  It seems to have been a mercifully quick end; they snapped her neck, but didn't maul her. 

"What a pretty chicken."  Such gorgeous feathers.  Massive amounts of personality.  And, unfortunately for us and for you, big agile wings!  Her cheek feathers made her look like she was surprised by everything.  (Maybe she was!)


We will miss you SOOOO much.  :(

Good-bye Rosa (23 April 2014 - 31 October 2017)

Who knew you could love a chicken, right?!  And we did.  Do.  We have had a terribly sad 10 days: our flock went from 11 to 9.  Rosa - the big bully australorp (3 1/2y rs old) and Earheart - the irrepressible Easter Egger (6 mo.)  We will miss them very much.  Thank you both for your companionship.  May you free range safely in the Great Beyond.

When I got home Friday 21 Oct after work, she was in a miserable loaf.  When she tried to stand up, her left leg was at a weird angle. I thought she had wrenched or fractured it (maybe she jumped off something and landed wrong?)  The rest of the gang seemed to realize she wasn't well, and were starting to go after her.  I grabbed her and put her in a little run by herself.  Then we hustled around setting up a dog crate which JUST fit inside the coop, so she could have a safe place to sleep.  The vet at Rio Bravo was able to work her in the next morning, thank goodness.  She thought it might be Mericks (sp?)  Chicken herpes.  And/ but she gave us a round of huge antibiotics & some tiny anti inflammatories to give her.

Giving a chicken a pill... oh my. 
Wrapping them up in a towel.  They are very cute with just their head sticking out.  We spent time with her.  We sang to her.  Gave her treats.  And for several days, we were really excited.  She seemed to get much better.  We thought she was going to make a full recovery.  But it didn't last.  As the week wore on, she clearly lost ground.  More time in a miserable loaf.  Back to having diarrhea.  Less interest in eating.  More difficulty walking.  On Halloween, I had taken a vacation day so we were home and could take her in/ with the idea that she was suffering/ there wasn't anything else the vet could suggest by way of treatment, so... to let her go.  They wrapped her up in a towel, laid her on her side, and were trying to find a vein when the tech said--oh, I think she's gone.  She just convulsed.'  And she was.  She died on the table.  :( 

We were concerned about Merricks, but the state autopsy was going to cost $200.  The vet offered to do a necropsy for $60 (no histopathology).  And we paid to have her cremated because the vet did give her the barbiturates just to be sure & that would make her little body a danger if the dogs managed to find her and dig her up.  :(   We left with our empty cat carrier.  [Histopathology: microscopic examination of tissue to study manifestations of disease]

Dr. Manzolina called around 6, and delivered complicated, mixed news:  Rosa did not have Merricks (phew... that is great news re. the rest of the flock).  But she died from a fatty liver condition.  I've been killing them slowly with my generous pile of Trader Joe's raw unshelled sunflower seeds every night.   What a horrible shock.  How can you tell if a hen is fat?!!  :(

In shock, starting Wednesday, loose greens as an evening treat.  Also starting to dial back the amount of organic feed from the co-op that is loose ingredients in favor of a prepared chow.  I admit, I've known for a long time they were 'not eating their Wheaties.'  I.e. they pick the corn out FIRST, and don't bother eating the bits that probably have all the vitamins in them.

Oh Rosa.  I'm soooo sorry.  I feel awful.  She was one of our 2nd batch.  23 April 2014.  Flavia, Rosa, Sophie, Starbuck, Moma Bear, and Sadie Buttercup -->Butterknife/ (now I call her Sniglet).  We have generally agreed this was a more high-struck, more pecky group.  The Gold Lace Wyadottes -- Starbuck and Moma Bear were kind-of mean.  And the Buff too.  A small nippy little thing!  Sophie has gone broody repeatedly... which was stressful in a while different way.  ?!

The story about Rosa is that she has always been a big gal.  When they were adolescents, we started to get really nervous.  One of the little Australorps suddenly had a really big beak, and really big, thick legs, and long tail feathers.  OMG.  Is it a rooster?   -- We were never so happy to see an egg in our life!  Massively relieved.  She is just Scandinavian!  A big-boned gal.