Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Too much of a good thing.

I know you are all probably tired of reading about chickens on my blog, so here is something different.
Last Sunday was the West Burlington, Iowa flea market. It is held once a month during the summer and everything can be found there from antiques to donkeys.....animals and junk all in one place, what more could a girl want? We like to go at least a couple of times during the summer. The only deterrent to going every time is that the flea market opens at 6am. Six. In the morning. AM. 6. I have no problem getting up early, I do it every day, but Burlington is an hour and a half away, so in order to get there when they open, before the 'good' stuff is gone, I have to have chores done and be ready to leave between 4:30 and 5am....AM. In the morning. Early morning. Clearly this means that there was no shower involved in this morning ritual.
My sister, Marie, and her daughter, Lauren, are huge fans of animals and junk as well, so they accompany us on these excursions.
Cuteness abounds at the flea market. I don't like pigs much, but THIS.......too cute! I was doing a remarkably well resisting the temptations that were all around me.
I even went past this hatchery owner with day old chicks. OK, so I stopped and looked. Whatever. He had beautiful, healthy chicks that had been health tested. Only a $1.50 each!

Here I am in this photo, just looking as my enabler of a sister is looking over my shoulder saying, "why don't you just get some?". The men apparently thought it was funny.

We walked around for another couple of hours. I accidentally stopped and looked at the chicks again...OK, so it was four times, who's counting?
And.................. here is a picture of me succumbing to peer pressure, and my sister and niece looking pretty pleased with themselves, and my enabler of a husband taking pictures. Like you didn't see that one coming.

Seriously though, Blue Cochins? C'mon who could resist these little penguin-looking guys?

Before you think that I have completely lost my mind, I only got 7 chicks and they are not sexed, so theoretically speaking half of them will be cockerels and will not stay.
Oh, did I say that this post was not going to be about chickens?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I smell a rat...or something.

You all know by now about my love of Barn Swallows. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that a very young pair of Swallows was building a nest inside of my smaller chicken coop. To me, this did not seem like the best choice of nesting sites; inside of a coop full of cackling chickens, only 6 1/2 feet off the floor of the coop, with me passing in and out right under the nest all day....but then, I am not a Barn Swallow, so what do I know?

Since we have had problems with foxes in the past, I am usually quite vigilant making sure that the barn doors are closed up at night. We have also added electric fence a few inches off the ground around the outside of the chicken run to deter any predators that might try to dig under the fence. With the new development of the swallows taking up residence in the coop, I was faced with a dilemma; do I assume that the electric fence and other measures that we have taken will be enough to keep the chickens safe if I leave the door open for the Swallows to get in and out, or do I close the door and leave the Swallows unable to tend their nest. I opted to leave the door open until we could make a small opening high enough for the Swallows to get in and out without inviting predators.

Yesterday was the first morning since I had let the Leghorn chicks and their adoptive mamas out with the rest of the big girls, so when I went out to do chores at 5:30 in the morning, I was anxious to see if everyone had done OK overnight, especially since I had left the barn door opened all night.
As soon as I headed out the door of the house, all I could hear was loud, cackling coming from the chicken barns. "Oh crap!" (or something along those lines). I hurried to the barns. Some of the hens were outside 'bawking' angrily, and more noise was coming from inside. I peeked in the first barn-there were angry hens, but no mama's with chicks. I looked in the second barn, frantically scanning the room to see where the chicks were, then, in the back corner, I spotted them. Both mamas, each with their respective chicks gathered protectively under their wings, sitting in the back of the barn..........well, I wondered, what is the problem then? I walked around checking for the source of the disturbance, finding nothing. Then on one last check of the first barn, I found two of my Rhode Island Red hens glaring behind a nest box and protesting loudly, refusing to move even as I pushed them aside. When I was finally able to see what all the chatter was about....I wished that I hadn't.

THIS was the reason for all the discord!

OK, so now what do I do? This was quite a predicament!
After considering the delicate nature of this situation, the first thing I did was to herd all of the hens out of the coop. As good as they were cornering this guy, I just didn't think that I was in need of further assistance from my fowl friends. Then of course, following the most logical thought process, my next thought was-I need my camera! What kind of an idiot says, "Hey, there is a skunk 3 feet from me...I think I will go get my camera". I think the answer to that is quite clear.I took these pictures and then considered the conundrum that was facing me-how am I going to get this little 'stinker' out of here without any malodorous consequences? Normally a wild creature that has overstepped his boundaries so flagrantly, and has had the audacity to enter one of the barns, putting my animals at risk, is shortening it's own lifespan considerably. But what does one do with this sort of fellow? If I put out a live trap and catch him, at some point I will have to retrieve said trap.....and I'm just sayin', I don't want to walk over and pick up a trap full of skunk perfume. If someone were to shoot the varmint (not Gary or I......both of us are completely incapable) he would release the offensive odor all over my chicken barns and my eggs would never be the same again. I needed a plan. I carefully moved the nest box. My thinking was that this would give him plenty of room to get out and, just this once, he would be given a pardon.

Hmmmm, he doesn't seem to be moving.
Now he has done it! I was getting a little angry. It was time to take some serious measures.
My weapon of choice? A broom.What!? It was the longest handled thing I could find!
I gingerly poked at my rival, urging him to get on his merry way....and poked again. Apparently skunks have very poor vision and can only see 2-3 feet in front of them so this was going to take some time. I poked, he moved a few feet...tail came up...I moved a few feet....quickly.
This picture is kind of blurry, because, as I mentioned earlier, I was the idiot holding a broom and a camera whilst chasing a skunk.After several minutes of this awkward dance, he finally got moving in the appropriate direction- OUT. I hurried after him as he dashed towards freedom. I think, at that point he and I shared the same aspiration-that he would get out and never return. Unfortunately, my hens had other ideas. As he ran out and tried to make his way to the fence line, my hens came running toward the evil perpetrator like a band of savage warriors, and thwarted his escape.........sadly, his only option was to run UNDER the barn where I, or my broom, could no longer reach. Thanks for your help, girls! Now what? My only hope now was that he would come out of hiding after dark and vacate the premises.
Late in the evening after the Barn Swallows had returned to their nest for the evening, I closed everyone up tight. I got out a flashlight, and while crawling around on all fours, I shined the light, peering into the dark crawlspace under the barn searching for my nemesis......yeah, that was yet another brilliant idea. Since there were a couple of corners not visible, I could not confirm whether or not the critter had found his way out. Even though he never sprayed, this morning there was still a small odor emanating from under the barn.....I am really hoping that he is gone and it is just his cologne that lingers......for his sake...'cause I have a broom and some bad-ass chickens.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Here a chick, there a chick, everywhere..........

The Leghorn chicks that I added to our menagerie are now about two weeks old and are starting to feather out. They have been doing very well with their adoptive mothers and growing like weeds. Yesterday I decided that it was time to move the mamas and babies in with the "general population". This was something that I was experiencing great anxiety about. Up until now, I have always gotten chicks from a hatchery and reared them in the safety of a separate enclosure for months until they were large enough to handle being in with the "big girls". I have seen how awful some of my more dominant hens can be to the more submissive ones and was quite worried about putting these little guys in with the rest of the group. So, with much trepidation, I took Annie, my Buff Orpington hen, and her little charges and released them into the outside run. The other hens immediately came running over to see what all the excitement was....incidentally, if you have never seen a hen run, you don't know what you are is somewhat reminiscent of a pioneer woman gathering up the layers of her prairie dress and running with her little pantaloons in full view.....I digress. Once the offending hens entered the area that Annie had deemed a 'no fly zone' for her and her chicks, she let them know in no uncertain terms how this was all going to play out. Hackles up, wings spread, she went at them with everything she had....and she's kind of a big girl, so what she had was plenty!

This hen got a bit too close and not only lost a few feathers off the top of her head for her indiscretion, but was forced to bow down submissively until Annie felt that she had sufficiently paid for her crime. If you look closely you can see bits of feather in her beak.For some unknown reason, after that incident, the other hens gave a wide berth to Annie and her brood. OK, I thought to myself, this is going well. I thought it would probably be safe now to introduce Elvira with her chicks to the group. I put Elvira, and company, carefully into the run next. Everything looked like it was going great...that is, until Annie noticed that there were some chicks way over there...with that other hen! Annie came dashing across as fast as her little legs could go (while holding up a prairie dress), and once she reached her destination, she firmly scolded Elvira for her perceived wrongdoing and proceeded to round up ALL of the chicks and took them as her own. Hmmm, this is not how I wanted this to go. Elvira protested and called to her chicks (who at this point were having a bit of an identity crisis). I was having a bit of an identification crisis of my own....all of the chicks were from the same hatch, same breed, with similar markings...I had NO idea who belonged to whom. I knew that Annie would try to take care of them all, but ten chicks is a lot for one mama to look after. I watched for a while and as time went on, things calmed down and Annie allowed Elvira to co-parent with her. Annie would look after the immediate needs of the babies and Elvira would stay on the outskirts chasing off any interlopers that became too inquisitive.
Finally, after a few hours, Elvira's chicks started to wander back to her, and by late in the day everyone was back to their rightful adoptive mothers. Annie was then content with her six, and was keeping them very close. Can you see three of the chicks poking out?
Elvira was taking no chances this time. She was going to keep her babies REALLY close.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Farmers' Market

It occurred to me that I have mentioned the fact that I am a vendor at the Davenport Freight House Farmers' Market innumerable times in this blog, but thus far have neglected to devote a post to the market....except maybe one last year when half of Iowa was under water and our market was displaced by the deludge on opening day.

So here it is, a really quick post about the place where I spend my Saturdays, and most TUESDAY EVENINGS 3PM-6PM....TUESDAY. EVENINGS. We seem to be having difficulty getting the word out that the old Wednesday market has now changed to: TUESDAY EVENINGS FROM there, I have done my part with only a minuscule hint of shameless self-promotion.
Our market, like most others, is a feast for the eyes, full of beautiful fresh flowers.

And wonderful produce.

Flowers and produce are great, but, I am not going to lie, this is why people come to the market. This is why, by the end of the market season, many of us vendors have added a few pounds and inches to the old caboose at a time of year while most people's waistlines are shrinking. Who can resist a veritable smorgasbord of gastronomical delights?

And locally produced wines.

However, it is not only people who come in droves to the market. Our market is also attended by lots of four-legged friends. I think we, quite possibly, have the doggiest market bar none.


....or shine.

Big dogs....

Little dogs.

Every kind of dog imaginable can be found at the market. Seriously, do you think that these canine com padres are there for the fresh air and exercise? Let me enlighten you! The dogs are here for the same reason as their human counterparts...
There are two separate vendors selling fancy dog cookies, and the dogs know exactly where their booths are. Well, most of the dogs do.......

"Dog cookies? Get serious dad! Just order me up one of those ribeyes."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Growing lambs

As promised, here is a lamb update. I am doing this mostly for Nancy, in Atlanta, who likes to watch the lambs grow from her apartment. This will be quick since I am blogging in between baking batches of cookies for Farmers' market tomorrow....let's hope I don't burn anything...I don't multi-task well anymore.
This is Magnus, Willow's ram lamb, this picture is of him as a newborn on April 20th.

And here he is just a month and a half later.
If you look very closely, you can see the hairs still attached to the tips of his horns from when they first sprouted....looks like some kind of crazy Shriner's hat with tassels. Magnus is becoming a nice solid, square ram with an awesome tiny tail. This is Callisto, one of Lovey's twin ewe lambs.
Calli growing up.
Calli is going to be musket (oatmeal color with dark legs and face). You can see how her fleece is lightening underneath.
Halley, Calli's twin sister.
Halley is a pretty gulmoget girl. I am not happy with her tail, but that will be something easily bred out in her offspring. She is staying. Below is Cassie. Cassie is, thus far, my favorite ewe lamb. She is very square, with beautiful fleece, awesome markings and a perfect tail. Cassie isn't going anywhere either!
This is Cassie's twin, Sagan.
Sagan is turning into a really nice ram lamb. Another nice, square boy with great fleece. So far his horns are looking good. His tail is decent, but it has a few long hairs at the tip that make it look longer than it is...........yes, I am a little picky, especially with rams, thank-you for noticing!Below is Titan as a newborn.
Titan wouldn't stop eating long enough to get a good picture of him, 'cause clearly he is starving!
Titan is the little tank of the flock. A bit smaller in stature than some of the other boys, but square, and solid to the extreme. Teeny tiny tail :).
Titan and Sagan...Titan is going to be grey, in case you couldn't tell.
Little baby Phoebe. Phoebs is a pretty girl and very sweet. Her fleece isn't particularly crimpy, but it is wonderfully soft and single coated. I am very glad that I found her a great home where she will be living with three other Crosswinds girls, but I will be sad to see her go.
Luna is Phoebe's twin.
Luna will be staying here :).
Below is Ariel with her dam.
Ariel was the last lamb born this season (May 6th), so she is only about a month old. Obviously she is ag/grey. She is another little tank.

Last, but most certainly not least, is Ferdinand. If you'll remember, I wasn't too sure about this guy when he was born. His ears were enormous and he was all legs, but as he has grown he is actually becoming quite a handsome boy...and has almost grown into his ears.
This guy has the most unbelievable crimpy, single coated fleece. I am still not too sure what his horns are going to do..they were small scurs when he was born that eventually fell off. Although they are now growing in and have the appearance of true horns, they are wiggly, so they are scurs as his dam carries polled genetics. Otherwise he is really well put together, he even has nice fleece on the poll. This guy has the most awesome temperament too. Not sure yet what I want to do with him...
OK, here we go with the tail again.... Ferdinand has great fluke shape to his tail, wool covering at the base and tapers to a hair covered tip......but I would like to see those hairs at the tip a little shorter! Yup, I said it before, I am picky!

The End......and I didn't even burn any cookies!

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