Saturday, January 30, 2010

Stickley has egg on his face

Stickley is my rescued greyhound.  He is nearly 8 years old, and I've had him since he was just about 4 years old.  He is a very mellow, lazy, loving, unflappable dog.  He has barked 3 times since I've owned him.  Seriously.  He just doesn't bark.  I think he can't be bothered - he'd rather be sleeping.  He's afraid of the chickens and not at all interested in any of the other farm critters.  He's also afraid of box elder bugs.  As a general rule, he never gets "into" things when nobody is home.  He never gets on the furniture and has never really tried except for his first few nights after coming off the track.

Yesterday was a very notable exception to the rule.  I had some eggs that had been sitting on the counter for...well...weeks on end.  They were from before the hens stopped laying, so likely mid November.  I just never got around to using them and then I didn't want to use them because of their age.  Normally, I keep our eggs on the counter and they are used within a couple of weeks.  Contrary to what food safety experts say, it's really quite safe and has been done in Europe for centuries.  Anyway, the eggs had been put by the garage door to be taken out to the garbage.  A certain person, not naming names, had not taken them out for several days, even though he had said that he would take them out "right away."  These things happen.

So, when I got home yesterday,
what greeted me on the rug as I came in?
Clearly, this was a very bad sign.  And a very bad smell.
Indeed, looking into the living room...
....wasn't a pretty sight.
See the culprit laying on his bed in the back of that picture?  All contrite and pretending to be fully asleep and completely ignorant of how these eggs came to be here.  What on earth was he thinking?
The smell has abated and the mess is cleaned up.  The eggs are now out in the garbage.  The dog is in the doghouse.  (figuratively speaking)

Note to self:  do not put bad eggs within reach of dog.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Where is January going?!

Goodness me, time is just racing by!  It's been a busy week so far for me.  We had some attorneys visiting from North Carolina this week.  We work with them a lot so it's always a pleasure to see them because they have become friends to me, as well as work associates.  However, work visitors = meetings, and that seems to have been the only thing I've done this week, apart from attending my classes of course.  I find that when my work week is full of meetings, I feel like I've accomplished less, and I get more stressed out about things. 

Today I managed to snap a few pictures for the blog though, so I'll leave my work thoughts on the back burner for a few minutes while I focus on the farm.  So, what's been going on around here?

A couple of weeks ago, I hatched a batch of mixed silkie eggs that I bought on  I had an excellent hatch rate and now I have 11 little fluffballs with a surrogate mother.  I used an incubator to hatch the eggs, but as soon as they were dry, I gave them to my silkie, Rosebud.  She's always had off-and-on wry neck problems, which I treat with vitamin E and selenium.  Sometimes it improves for a while as a result, but it never seems entirely fixed.  She eats and drinks well, but she often curls her head down and walks backwards as a result.  She's a dear little hen so it doesn't matter, but she is inside for now because it's been so cold out and I worry about her not getting into the coop for the night.  Anyway, any chick that is given to her is immediately adopted without question, and snuggled gently under her wings.  It doesn't matter that she didn't hatch them, she loves them all the same.  Here is Rosebud with a few of her current brood poking their heads out!

Meanwhile, Stormy is doing well and Mama Llama Dolly is becoming more protective of him than she was initially.  She lets us touch him if needed (like today when we had to cut the leg holes on the lamb coat he is wearing but she vocalizes the whole time we have him in hand).  She sleeps with him curled up against her.  They are a sweet pair.  Despite his fleecy coat and her warmth, I still see him shivering at times and I do worry about him.  I wish the weather would warm up!  Meanwhile, it seems every time I go to visit, he's drinking, drinking, drinking!  It's hard to get a face shot!

Then, there's the chicken coop.  The indoors one.  We finished up and....they don't want to use it.  I don't get it.  I mean, the temperature in there is higher, there are nice roosts, there is an automatic feeder....  So where do they go?  They go into the barn rafters.  Here, there and everywhere.  I can't get them down from there, so I scoop up the stragglers who are at lower elevations and pop them in the coop.  Sigh.

Our sheep and goats have thoroughly enjoyed the generous gift of a friend of ours (Cindey Lou and Slim's former "mom") of some Christmas trees that were not purchased.  All of our ruminants enjoyed their spruce flavoured munchies!  They even ate the bark!

Thanks Mom, we're finished with that tree now!  Can we have another one?

I hadn't yet introduced you to Esmeralda, our barn cat, who has put a very serious dent in our mouse population.  We got her just before Christmas from a friend whose neighbour was trying to manage a semi-feral cat population.  Fortunately some were easier to catch than others and Esme arrived in a cat carrier.  After exiting the cat carrier inside our barn, she did not show herself for nearly a week.  In fact, the only reason we knew she was there was because we found evidence of her....well...bodily functions!  Not in the litter box, initially, although she uses it now.  She has now developed a tolerance for us to the point that just this week, she has begun to tentatively rub up against Kelly's leg when he's in the workshop.  Hooray!  She's intended as a mouser, so we didn't want a lap cat, but being able to give her flea treatments, etc is important.  She likes to hang around in the carrier with the blankets.

She's always on the lookout for mice!

Finally, there's Leslie, our first BFL who is due to give birth.  She's due on Feb 16, but we brought her in early because we noticed she had begun to shed her fleece in the center of her back.  We are not sure why this is, but we've put her in the lambing pen for observation.

Here's the spot on her back that the fleece is shedding.
Well, that's about all the news around here.  Oh, I did take this picture of the finished chicken coop, and there's this weird haze in the picture.  I told Kelly that it was evidence of paranormal activity in our barn.  He said I was being silly.  Well, you decide...this picture has not been altered in any way at all.  The air was completely clear when I was taking the picture.

Pebbles the goat says: "Mom, you're crazy.  Can I have a peppermint?  Tell Isobelle and Gerald I said hi!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Icy and Stormy

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, we had a bad ice storm here yesterday.  In fact, it was so bad, that I still could not get up the driveway today.  The driveway is on a slope up to the gravel road, which becomes a small but steep-ish hill down to another gravel road, and then a bigger, steeper hill up to a sharp turn, onto yet another gravel road.  All this conspires to make driving a bit difficult after this much ice.  Even if I made it up one of the hills, there’s no telling if I’d make it up the next one…or if I’d end up in a ditch.  When I can’t even get up the driveway, I figure the rest of the hills are not going to be a good thing.

This afternoon, things finally began melting, and large crashing noises became a regular occurrence as huge chunks of ice slid off the roof.  I ventured out to the barn where Kelly was in the woodshop and our conversation was interrupted with what sounded like a herd of caribou on the roof.  Nope.  Just more ice taking a short trip off a steep metal roof.

I took the camera out with me to document some of the ice.  When I first walked outside and listened to the noises, I would have guessed the woods were full of deer. 

There were crashing and cracking sounds constantly.  It was the ice breaking, or tree limbs breaking, and all the bits falling onto the frozen ground where they skittered away to hide in a new place.  Every step was treacherous out there.  I nearly had some close encounters with the ground myself, but fortunately I held myself upright.

I took some pictures of the leaves on the trees, and the branches, in their icy coats.

There were a few spots on my walk where the grass was showing...well...sort of showing.

Here's what the path to the barn looks like right now!  That's pure ice!

I looked up at my fruit trees.  Some look alright.

 Others don't look good at all.

I couldn't go investigate without risking broken bones or other hazards.  Apparently somebody in Des Moines lost an eye due to a fall on the ice.  I didn't want to take that kind of risk.

Last summer's Echinacea heads were completely covered in ice and leaning over.  Oh how it makes me long for spring!

To make myself feel a little better, I visited with Dolly and Stormy.  Dolly was laying down and looking well rested.  Stormy was exploring his surroundings as he often does.  Today he is much steadier on his feet, and very inquisitive.

He has this expression, and I haven't decided what it means yet.  What do you think?  Is he really unimpressed with my checking in on him?!  Dolly was giving me the eye too.

He gave me that look more than once!

But then he came over and whined at me, and I couldn’t help but give him a little tickle.

I’m so amazed at how similar he is to Dolly’s patterns.  I would have thought that we would have seen more of his father’s colouring somewhere.  Maybe he will have more of his father’s stance or heavy coat. 

I can't decide if he's black or really dark brown.  Dolly is really dark brown but her face is more black.  We'll wait and see as he matures!  I hope your world is not as icy as mine, or if it is, I hope you have some furry critters to make you smile.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stormy Surprise

I know I said that my next blog post would be about sheep names.  Um, yes....well....put that on hold please.  We have more important news.  This morning we had very heavy freezing rain.  My office was on delayed opening hours, school was cancelled, and there were vehicles who could not navigate our road that were stuck outside spinning their wheels.  We lingered about inside, not really thrilled about venturing out into the cold.  Here was the view out the back window in our home office.

Kelly finally decided to go out and do the chores, and I decided to take a shower before going out to join him.  I was in the shower when he burst into the bathroom saying "HONEY!" and since our shower has a frosted door, I couldn't really see, so I peeked around the corner of the door so as not to let all the cold air in.  He was standing there holding a very unfamiliar looking animal.  Was it one of our goats?  A drenched sheep?  What the....


Kelly was holding a baby llama.  He blurted out "It's a baby llama and it's really cold and shivering and nobody was taking care of it."

So, I rushed to get the conditioner out of my hair and get dressed.  I ran downstairs where Kelly already had the little one in the tub with some warm water.  He was filthy (the llama, not Kelly) from the mud in the barn because we've had a lot of melting in the past week.  Here he is in the tub with the mucky water.

The animals had all been in the barn because of the freezing rain too, so you can imagine the dirt floor was not in great shape.  We washed him well and then had to towel him off first...

before we began to blow dry him gently.

We also made a little bit of colostrum formula for him and he took some of it, which we thought was a good sign.  His shivering began to ease up, and I rushed upstairs to contact a friend who had llamas, hoping she could give me some advice.  Thank goodness for Facebook!  She sent me her phone number and was able to guide me through what we should do.  He was definitely moving around well!

After drying him off, we put a lamb coat on him to keep him warm.  We then took him out to the barn where we had some lambing pens set up for our sheep that are due in February.  During all this, we decided that he would be appropriately named "Stormy" in honour of his birth day conditions!  The next thing to determine:  who was the mom?

We went out and looked at our 3 female llamas.  They all had completely clean and clear back ends.  The placenta was lying in a heap in the corner of the barn.  Nobody was talking.  I went around and felt for teats, expecting something like a sheep.  Nope.  Everybody had little teats and no moisture that I could find.  Of course, this had to be done carefully because llamas tend to kick when you go poking around their nether regions.  I called our friend again...."help, nobody has an udder!" but she explained to me that llamas don't "bag up" like sheep and goats do, so I was looking for the wrong thing.  We decided, based on his appearance, that he was most likely to be Dolly's baby.  We brought him out of the barn and over to the girls, and she immediately began whining and humming.  Check!  We've got the mom!

We had incredible difficulty in getting Dolly out of the pasture because the gate was frozen shut due to the ice storm, not to mention that the bottom 6 inches or so were under snow, with a coating of ice on it.  Kelly had to end up using the saws-all tool to cut through a cattle panel which we pried open.  Then, Dolly didn't want to leave the pasture.  It took Kelly with a lead on her, straining against her weight, nearly falling on the ice repeatedly.  Dolly's legs were going every-which-way because she was also on the ice.  We used Stormy to lure her forward despite her discomfort with the unsteady footing.  I had to hold Stormy because he was wobbly at the best of times and I didn't want him to hurt himself on the ice.  In addition, Kelly and I had only one pair of "Yak-Trax" ice walkers between us because we've misplaced the other pair.  ARGH!

Anyway, after a great deal of shoving, pulling, avoiding kicks, and prancing about with a baby llama in the middle of an ice storm, we finally got them both in the barn.

Dolly was very attentive to Stormy and immediately communicated with him and nuzzled at him.

Many people are unaware that llamas cannot stick their tongues out of their mouth - they just don't work that way.  So, baby llamas (also called crias) are not licked clean like other baby animals.  They usually dry off in the sun in their native environment.  Ice storms....not so much.  So she wasn't licking him, but she was very interested in him.  She was also interested in the hay we had put in the stall.  She began eating and he started looking for the milk bar.

It wasn't long before Kelly went out to do a barn check and found Stormy nursing away, so all is well in llama-land.

It was a dreadful day for having a baby, but in another way, very fortunate that we were home (not by choice!) and that we could give him the necessary attention.  It was also good that we had the lambing pens set up.

So, welcome Stormy!  The sheep names will wait until next time!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Roll Call

I've been thinking about new names for the youngsters we'll be having on the farm this spring.  Sometimes, an animal "speaks" to me and tells me its name.  Sometimes, they're quiet about it.  Sometimes, something just fits.  Most of our animals do have names.  Some of the chickens don't have names, and the white Pekin ducks don't have names because there is really no way to tell them apart.  I refer to them mostly as "Duckle" when I'm interacting with them. 

So, I thought I'd talk about some of our critters' names and how they came by them.

Here are 3 of our 6 goats.  The front goat is Coffee - a mini Nubian.  She came to us already named, with her sister Cookie.  Her sister survived an infection with deer meningeal worm, but it left her with a limp and a weakness in her hind quarters.  She was never entirely the same afterwards and sadly, last fall she died.  She had white ears (like cookies and cream ice cream) and Coffee has brownish ears.  That's what the kids in her former home called her, so we kept it.  Behind Coffee is Puffin.  Puffin came to us from an animal sale in Missouri.  I'm not sure that I would buy animals from that kind of sale again.  I didn't really like the atmosphere of it.  Still, Puffin, Muffin and Stuffin were a trio of goats we bought then, and we named them.  We started with Muffin, and decided the other two should rhyme.  You may remember that Stuffin gave birth to Luna, our first baby goat.  Subsequently, Stuffin, Luna, Muffin and our mini goat wether, Buford, all went to live with one of my coworkers.  Puffin is a Pygmy goat and she's due in April.  Behind those two is Valentino (Val for short) and he is our angora buck.  He came to us named, and we kept it!

Here is Opal, our first Nigerian Dwarf goat, who has been on a few other blog posts before.  She came to us named also, and I really liked her name, so we kept it.

This is the lovely Lotus, who is also a Nigerian Dwarf goat.  She came from Black Cat Creek Farm.  She is very affectionate and sweet natured.  We hope her kid(s) will be also!  She has a very cute beard, doesn't she?!

Our sixth goat is Pebbles, who also came with her name.  She is the elderly lady of the bunch, and she has never been fertile to our knowledge.  She came from a farm that was getting rid of their goats and they said she had always been with a proven buck but had never had kids.  She is also very friendly and sweet, even if she does moan pitifully when she repeatedly gets her head stuck in the cattle panel openings.  Silly Pebbles.

Then there are our 2 miniature donkeys.  They are Sicilian donkeys.  They didn't come with names, so we named them Willow and Springfield.  Willow is so named because she is dainty like willow leaves, but very strong, like an immense willow tree trunk.  Springfield is named after a racehorse from long ago in the UK, with whom my family has a connection.  He is so named because he likes to run at high speed around the pasture, kicking out his heels.  He is a gelded donkey and Willow is his mother.  Willow also gave birth to Onyx after we adopted her, and we don't know who the father was, because it obviously wasn't Springfield.  Onyx now lives with some sheep and another donkey in southern Iowa!  Here are Willow (grey) and Springfield (brown/black) with Onyx behind them.  In this picture, Springfield had just about finished molting his wintery coat, and he was still shaggy on the bottom.  He changes colour entirely when he molts!

Moving on to the llamas, we have five of them.  We have our herd sire, Kahlua, along with his ladies:  Dolly, Hazel and Cabernet.  We also have Cesar, and he's a gelded male who is an excellent sheep guardian.  We named Dolly because her other name was "Black Eyed Pea" and we didn't really like that.  Kahlua, Hazel and Cabernet all came with their names.  Cesar was adopted from the animal rescue league and he was named Smokey Spots, but Kelly decided to call him Cesar, in honour of his new leadership role as a sheep guardian.

Here's Kahlua:

And here's Cesar:

Here, from left to right, are (a chicken), Dolly Llama, Cabernet, and Kahlua (flanked by yet another chicken).

And here's dear Hazel, sort of hiding behind Dolly...Hazel had a skin infection and is re-growing her fleece but she's looking so much better than she was. 

So, next blog post, I'll do the sheep's names, because there are a lot of them. 

Right now, I'm thinking about goat names.  When we choose the names ourselves, we tend to go with non-human types of names.  I think I'll keep that tradition up.  We are expecting kids from Opal, Lotus, Puffin and Coffee this year.  I think I might choose gemstone names for Opal's, flower names or Egyptian style names for Lotus', bird names for Puffin's and perhaps coffee types like Kona or Java or something like that for Coffee's kids.  What do you think?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Goats Even the Score

I seem to have caused a bit of a goat uproar.  First, Isobelle Golightly the Beautiful Goat pointed out that I had not recognized her species in my post yesterday about the sheep home invasion.  Then, Gerald the Majestic Goat  pointed out that I had made his lady all googly-eyed over the sheep and he fears rejection (hmmm...what would happen if Gerald and Isobelle got together?  Beautiful Majestic Kids?).  Gerald, have you even NOTICED the most beautiful goat in the world has her own blog?  Or are you too self-absorbed in your worries over being usurped by the sheep? 

Oh you goats of little faith.  Did you really think that you were being neglected?  EVERYBODY knows that goats are smarter than sheep.  If I hadn't featured the sheep first, well, they might have all gathered in the corner of the pasture and made a pact to impale themselves on the cattle panels.  Seriously.  They're not the brightest bulbs in the box.  Much as I love them, and their fleece, they do need a little bit of remedial education sometimes.  Whereas goats, clever and entertaining goats, they are wise and do not behave like sheep, wailing in the corner because they think they've been missed.  Right Gerald?

So being sheep, they've had to put themselves into every corner of my home, in case I might forget about them.  They're that insecure.  Goats, on the other hand, have made their presence more subtle and carefully crafted.  But believe me, they've had an invasion of their own.  Let's review...

Goat fibre!  Yes, lots of it!  Mostly angora goat fibre in this box, in a whole rainbow of pretty colours, all ready for felting or other fibre crafts.  Even spinning!  Hooray for goats!

Oh, I know!  Let's revisit this picture, from yesterday's sheep post.  See anything interesting, Gerald and Isobelle?!  Yes!  It's about goats too!  I've made it a little easier for you to see that, by using special editing tools.  There's even a picture of a goat!  Right on the front cover!

Let's have a little look inside the book!  Oooooh look, it's Isobelle's relatives!  How cute!  Nowhere near as beautiful as Isobelle though - these ones are a bit knobbly kneed.

There are also some rather majestic looking buck goats, although none as majestic as Gerald, of course.  This one is a Kiko goat.  It says in the text that the Kiko "performs very well in humid parts of the country" but my buck performs very well regardless of where he is.  Errr....moving right along...

There are a plethora of goat books in the house, on various shelves.  Some of them are about goat care and raising in general.

Others are more specifically geared towards medical problems.  There is a saying that "a sick sheep is a dead sheep" but that doesn't seem to apply to goats, so we have a good book about treating goat diseases.

OH!  Lest I forget, here on the bedroom bookshelf, we find non-medical interesting goat books, such as this one.  It's one of my favourites.  It's about a couple who travel all over the country looking at and learning about goats of different breeds.  They study different types of goat operations in order to decide what kind of operation they want to have.  I really love this book!

And just like the sheep invasion, the goats have also invaded in the form of magazines...including Dairy Goat Journal, which doesn't apply to Gerald or Isobelle, but I feel sure they will appreciate the overall goatiness.

Also I have a very special indoor goat given to me by Mom L, who is a frequent commenter on my blog.  She gave me this little goat about a year ago, and he has a special place on top of the mirror on my bureau in the bedroom.  It's sort of a majestic location, from which he can survey all that is his.

Sometimes he even gets a bit festive.

So, to all my goat readers, rest assured that your species is ever-so-present in my home and my life.  As Valentino says, "Chill out dudes and dudettes, I've got the whole goat scene under control here."