Friday, October 31, 2008

Six Little Nankins

Well the nankin hatch ended successfully with 6 little fluffballs of joy. They are so tiny and fragile but wow, they are FAST! They can run much faster than bigger chicks! Less weight to move I guess! I am always fascinated by the differences between chicks of the same breed, and this time is no exception. Here they are in the "eggmobile" going for a ride. Their shape and pattern of head spots varies considerably.

This one surprises me the most - nearly all grey compared to the others, who are all shades of gold, cream and brown. They are all extremely fluffy and they peep at me incessantly when I talk to them. I guess I am mother bird for now.

It will be fun to see how their colors change as they get older. I'll be posting updates now and then!

Still in the incubator: Welsummers, Cuckoo Marans, Light Brahmas, Penedesencas, Silkies, and a couple of Cochins.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hatching Nankins

Today I have some nankin eggs hatching in the incubator. They are a very small breed of chicken, with a maximum weight of about 22 ounces. As a result, they are very tiny chicks when they first hatch. I could easily fit 5 or 6 of them in my hand. I had purchased eggs from eBay for them and they had arrived well packaged and intact, which is always a bonus when one buys eggs online! Many thanks to the seller (BBlackburne) for his excellent packaging and for sending eggs that were clearly fresh and fertile!

After 21 long days of incubating and carefully candling eggs, I was thrilled to find that 9 seemed to be developing, which is also very impressive for mailed eggs. So far, I have 3 hatched and 2 more pipped (that means that there is a small hole in the egg that the chick has made) and 4 without signs of emergence yet.

Here's a picture of the 3 hatchlings so far. One thing I find particularly interesting about them is the difference in colours between them all. So if you look carefully, you'll see that the one furthest to the left has various dark markings on its back and head, and has a brownish/gold cast overall. The middle one towards the top of the photo has a greyish cast overall and less defined back markings, but still a spot on its head. Then the third and most recent hatch is nearly all gold colour with a small dark head mark. What this all means, I have no idea, but it's very intriguing and I will enjoy watching them mature and seeing how their colours change!

The laying hens have decided that winter is not their favourite time of year, so they are not laying much. I had only 1 egg today and 1 yesterday. Not what I would ideally like! Hens have a tendency to lay fewer eggs when the day length is short and when the days are darker it seems. Of course, the other possibility is they've found another spot to lay their eggs outside of the nesting boxes, and I am not wise to their little game. It would not surprise me. Must keep an eye out for egg hoards when I am cleaning up the garden!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When life gives you a lemon, use it!

I am a big fan of indoor citrus. Outdoor citrus trees just don't work in Iowa. Miserable fact of life in this climate. So, I grow citrus trees in large pots outdoors from about May to October. In fact, Kelly just brought them inside for me. Even though I use large plastic pots (because clay pots would be impossible to move), they are still very heavy.

So why do I have this perverse desire to grow things that are completely unsuitable for my zone? Because I can! And why not?! I actually began with my first lemon tree when I still lived in Canada. I don't even remember where I bought it, but when I left Canada, I could not tolerate the thought of my dear lemon tree going in the dustbin. So, I did what any sensible woman would do. I sent it to my mother by FedEx. Brilliant! My mother has lovingly cared for my lemon all these years and in fact it is getting quite tall and bushy now, although it certainly has taken its time about it. I wish it would bloom for her, because the blooms are beautiful and the scent is exquisite. I keep sending it blooming thoughts, but it has so far not responded correctly.

Here in Iowa, I purchased a lemon tree (unnamed variety) from Lowe's. After actually having a lemon grow on it, I was all the more intrigued. I found a wonderful online vendor of citrus by the name of Four Winds Growers. I ordered from them 3 different plants: a Bearss lime, a Trovita orange, and a Eustis limequat, which is a cross between a lime and a kumquat.

More recently, Park Seed was having a sale on gallon pot citrus trees. I purchased from them a variegated lemon, a "Nagami" kumquat, and a thornless Mexican lime. I am waiting for them to arrive so I can get them started this winter.

The exciting thing about growing citrus indoors is that they actually produce fruit, because the blooms are self-pollinating. As proof of this statement, I present to you, the enormous lemon! It weighs 14.2 ounces and is the biggest lemon I have ever seen. You can't buy these in an Iowa grocery store! I haven't cut into it yet, but I assure you I will blog about it when I do. I have included the pop can to provide a sense of scale. I tried to research the world's largest lemon and found one from Israel that was 11 pounds, 9.7 ounces. OK, so I have a little bit of work to do, but this is still one massive lemon!

This is my Trovita orange. It is obviously not ripe yet, but I am just waiting for the day when it is. I have several limes and another lemon on the way. What a delightful way to enjoy the fruits of summer when it's winter in Iowa. The flowers that bloom in the middle of winter make my living room smell like a citrus grove, and are quite delightful when faced with blizzards out of doors. They keep me going, waiting for spring! In the meantime, I shall make lemonade.

You bought WHAT?

This posting is titled after the most common response I have heard from friends after telling them about our latest purchase. Is it really that unusual to spend one's Sunday afternoon purchasing a couple of llamas? I guess it is. But our friends and family should expect that sort of thing from us by now!

We purchased two registered female llamas on Sunday, and they are already well settled in with the goats. They were purchased with a few thoughts in mind:
a) First and foremost, they are well known as good flock protectors. They will be quite capable of dealing a swift kick to any fox, coyote, coon, or possum that dares to lay foot inside our goat/chicken area.
b) Second, they have lovely fleece, which can be sold to artists such as spinners or weavers. Llamas need to be shorn in spring and then their fleece grows back in time for winter.
c) Third, they are a fun new addition to our flocks and we think they are very interesting!

Our llamas are named Hazel and Cabernet. When we bought them, Cabernet was actually named Cle-Cle, but we have fallen into the habit of calling her Cabernet, which is part of her registered name. Her whole name is Cabernet's Carmenere, but we will just call her Cabernet. She and Hazel are half sisters. Cabernet is 5 years old and has both Bolivian and Chilean ancestry. We have her pedigree (part of the fun of a registered llama) and her ancestral family has lovely names, like Skansen's Silver Pheasant (her great grandma) and White Oak Zipizape (her great great grandfather). Some of these are quite well known bloodlines.

This is Hazel.

One interesting factoid about llamas that I learned this weekend: llamas hum. They do not bleat like goats or whinny like horses. No, they are far more original. They hum. Each one has a slightly different tone and style of hum. I can stand by the fence and hum to my own little tone and they will come over to investigate me.

This is Cabernet.

Putting your hand on a llama's back, into the heavy fur, is like putting your hand into a very large, very warm mitten. Everybody should experience this at least once in their lifetime! It is remarkably warm and soft.

The llama ladies are settling in well with their new goat friends, and have also taken an interest in the chickens. The chickens have a tendency to scuffle about in the straw after the goats have finished eating, looking for leftover treats. The llamas were a bit scared of the chickens at first, but now approach them with interest.

This evening, Hazel decided it was time for the goats to go to bed, so she herded them all into the barn. We did not teach her to do this, but she seems to have developed a talent for it already. Zak, our largest male wether goat, decided he did not want to go in the barn. Hazel kept a beady eye on the goats already in the barn, and gently encouraged Zak to join them. She is gentle but firm. Zak pretended to be interested in some non-existent food on the ground. Hazel let it go this time, but I think she is getting wise to his tricks!

Cabernet is a little more stand-offish than Hazel, but is particularly fond of cracked corn. I am encouraging her to interact daily with a small amount of cracked corn as a morning treat. Surely she will come to think I am her special friend as a result. We exchange hums and eye each other daily. I hope she will become as friendly as Hazel in time.

We are delighted with our new girls, and look forward to learning more about llamas as time goes by. One other thing we have learned is that they are not deterred at all by cold temperatures. Here they are this morning with frost on their backs. Oblivious to the cold, but extremely interested in their morning ration of hay.

Oh, of course, one last item of note. Cookie is doing incredibly well. She now has a normal stance and is slightly dragging her rear feet but it isn't that noticeable. She's such a trooper and we are so very pleased at her recovery. Deer meningeal worm IS treatable in goats if you get it early. We welcome questions or comments from other goat owners who have been touched by this disease.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cookie's Walking!

Hooray! Cookie is up all by herself and walking. In fact, she even ran a little bit in the barn. She's a bit wobbly and unsure of herself, for good reason, but she is able to lay down and get up by herself when she wants. This is a HUGE improvement. I am so pleased for her. She will continue to get some "rehab" for her muscles to ensure they build up again and get strong. She may always have a limp or a funny walk, but that's OK if she's able to move and be a normal goat. Here is a picture of her now. Her back is a bit more curved than it should be and you can see her stance is not "normal" but it's a lot better than seeing her dragging both legs behind her and moving along like a seal.

And yes, I know the floor is messy - this picture was before I cleaned out her area and refilled the water dish. I was just so excited to see her standing, I had to take the picture right away!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cookie Update

Today, Cookie seemed slightly better. It is so hard not to be optimistic. I don't want to be too optimistic because I don't want to have to have my heart broken if we have to put her down. Of course, that will break my heart anyway, but it would be worse if I really thought she was getting better.

I tried to encourage her to walk today. She is not extremely heavy (so although it sounds bad, it really isn't) so I gently held her back end up by the tail. When I hold her tail, she tries to scamper around just like she used to. I don't always have to hold her tail. Sometimes, like when she stops to eat fresh clover, she can balance on her back legs. I think she could not do that before. If she tries to run, she falls over. If she walks slowly, she manages to go about 10 feet before she falls over. I hope this is a good sign, because she could not even do that before. She actually ran for about 20 feet while I was holding her tail. She certainly has a strong will to live and is not in any way lethargic. I let her rest in one spot for a while and went off to do something else. About 20 minutes later when I came back, she had moved herself about 10 feet. I am not sure if she dragged herself or walked.

She has 2 more days on panacur (dewormer) and 1 more day of steroid, and then day 7 is just another dewormer (ivomec). After that, we have to hope the inflammation goes away and the parasite is kaput. Of course, we also hope that she does not have permanent neurological damage. She is so sweet. It doesn't matter if she always has a limp or a funny walk. We will love her anyway.

Be strong, dear Cookie. We're all pulling for you.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Administering of Goat Injections

For the last few days, I have been treating our goat, Cookie, for an infection caused by deer meningeal worm, the Latin name for which is Paralaphostrongylus tenius. Normally it infects deer, but goats and sheep, along with some camelid species, are secondary hosts. Goats can get it from eating a slug or a snail, which is the intermediate host for this nasty parasite. It gets into their central nervous system by entering the brain or spinal cord, and is often fatal.

We found this out because we took Cookie to the University of Iowa large animal clinic after we noticed her dragging her rear legs. They did a spinal fluid test and found elevated levels of eosinophils in the fluid. This is a sign of the infection. So, she has been on massive doses of deworming medications (2 different ones) as well as a steroid. The poor little goat is only 6 months old and is very sweet, so the idea of her dying from this horrible parasite is extremely upsetting. We are doing our very best to bring her back to health, even if she has a permanent limp, which can happen if they do actually live.

So, this week I learned how to give sub-cutaneous (sub-q) and intramuscular (IM) injections to a goat. This has not been a lifelong yearning desire of mine, but now that I have goats and chickens, I guess it was time to learn. I feel better having learned how to do this task, even if it doesn't help this time around. To be honest, it was more difficult getting through the skin than I expected. Goats are tough skinned! Or maybe humans are just thin skinned. I haven't given myself any injections but I've poked myself with pins or sewing needles often enough to know it's not that hard to get through my skin!

Today, although I am very guarded about this, I am slightly optimistic. I carried Cookie outside to let her eat some fresh clover since it was so nice out, even though she has been housed inside the barn since she became unwell. She actually stood on her own for a few seconds after I helped her up. Then she leaned against my leg for a while as she munched on the clover. I don't want to get my hopes too high, but I really hope she makes it.

If you have the inclination, please send healing thoughts, prayers, white beams of healing light, or whatever else you believe in, to my little Cookie. Here she is just a week or so ago, in better times.

Fall at its Finest

Today was one of those days that absolutely begged to be enjoyed out of doors. It was a warm, sunny and breezy day, with little white cotton ball clouds and dry leaves whipping into frenzied dances along the edge of the woods.

A perfect day for....well...planting bulbs of course. As you know from reading my last post, if you read it, I purchased rather a quantity of bulbs, so it was time to do some planting. First (and actually starting yesterday), I began by digging up the canna lilies. This was good because it sort of gave me a pre-dug hole that I could pop some bulbs into. The canna tubers needed to be washed and dried, so they are presently in a box drying out. Quite remarkable how huge they became over the summer. The box they are in now is about 3 times the size of the box they came in. I suppose they will shrivel a bit over the winter. This was my first year for growing cannas but I'm very pleased with how they came out. In fact, here is a picture of me when they just began blooming, holding one of my first blue chicken eggs (another story). I'm 5'10", so you can see how tall the cannas became.

So today, that bed is now fairly empty, although it has been well stocked underground with an assortment of alliums, daffodils, and crocuses. Or is that crocii? Well in any event, the bulbs are in. I planted nearly half of them today and yesterday. A good start. Of course, the chickens like to see what is going on when I am busy in the garden. Once I had finished with the bed in the picture above, my chantecler rooster came over with his 2 partridge rock girlhens (a modification of girlfriends). He decided that the newly dug over bed was exactly the place to be.

I dug up some gladiolus bulbs to dry out also. They have all these little tiny bulblets attached to them. I'm not entirely sure what I'm supposed to do with them since I'm new to keeping gladiolus bulbs. Something else I must research in my copious spare time...(and yes, that was a touch of sarcasm).

Another special thing about today is that it was my Mother's birthday. I bought her some bare root roses from a Canadian nursery which will be delivered to her in May. I thought that was a good gift because they should bring many years of lovely blooms and happiness in the garden. Wishing her many happy returns and sending lots of hugs.

A friend of mine dropped by with her son yesterday to see our chickens and goats. I gave her son a serama chicken and they are going to bring me a white leghorn rooster by the name of Elvis. I am not sure if he has spandex outfits or not, but I am sure the girlhens will adore him. Apparently he's quite talkative and not aggressive, which is great. Some roosters can be a bit cranky. So far, none of mine are nasty. Previously, the same friend gave me another rooster, Tarzan, in exchange for 6 silkie hatching eggs. Here is a picture of Tarzan. He is tremendously handsome and has a crow that is a bit like a broken party horn. Kelly said we should name him Tarzan and it stuck. This is not the best picture of him because you can't see his lovely tail feathers very well, but trust me, he's a looker!

It was a 7 egg day yesterday, but only 2 today. The hens are funny about day length and I think today they were too excited about the sun to remember to lay eggs. When winter sets in and they are bored silly, maybe they will remember to lay eggs again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Plethora of Bulbs

For some of you who know me well, this revelation will be oh-so-hard to believe. But it's the truth. Sometimes....I just can't make up my mind. When I have trouble making up my mind, and I just don't have the time or ability to sort it all out, I don't decide between A, B, C, etc....I just decide on all of A, B, C, etc.. That way I'm not disappointed in my decision. Sometimes, I get myself in a wee spot of trouble because of this little personality quirk. Not bad trouble, just "Oh dear, what have I done?" sort of trouble. And usually, the result is that I have not allocated sufficient time to deal with the results of whatever I have done.

Anyway, my most recent foray into this little ummmm... affliction of mine, was in the purchasing of bulbs. I had a number of fall bulb catalogues arrive, bursting with big glossy pictures of beautiful flowers and dazzling colours and spectacular garden vistas. My eyes probably got a bit glassy and dreamy as I tenderly flipped each page, taking in sharp breaths now and then with the excitement of it all. Some women get all drippy about Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Not me. I get all silly about bulbs.

So, having made all my orders some time ago, my bulbs have finally arrived. And I have just 4 words about this whole situation. WHAT WAS I THINKING???!!!

Dear readers - if any of you should want a sudden getaway to Iowa, a quick weekend of fun and adventure, a get-your-hands-dirty kind of experience, please, PLEASE come to visit me, and help me plant my bulbs. I need an army of helpers. Kelly and I are going to have sore wrists for days.

But here, in all its glory, is my list of bulbs that are presently sitting on the floor of the study in nicely organized piles. This doesn't count the bulbs that I will be receiving as part of a swap through a garden group in which I participate. But that will be minor, in comparison to this.... (I've added links for many so you can link to a picture of the flowers if you're interested!)

Allium unifolium - 20 bulbs
Allium "Gladiator" - 6 bulbs
Allium mixed species - 100 bulbs
Allium schubertii - 15 bulbs
Allium pulchellum - 10 bulbs
Allium karataviense "ivory queen" - 10 bulbs
Allium karataviense - white shaded with rose or violet mix - 50 bulbs
Allium azureum - 120 bulbs
Allium nectaroscordum - 10 bulbs
Allium cowanii - 20 bulbs
Allium sphaerocephalon - 120 bulbs
Allium ostrowskianum - 20 bulbs
Allium "Mont Blanc" - 4 bulbs
Allium roseum - 20 bulbs

Note - Alliums are in the onion family and produce spherical shaped flower structures in spring through summer. One fabulous feature - they are hated by deer and rabbits, and tend to keep those critters away from your other plants.

Calla aethiopica - 4 bulbs
Calla "Green Goddess" - 4 bulbs

Tulip "Gavota" - 6 bulbs

Narcissus "Yellow hoop petticoat" - 10 bulbsNarcissus "White medal" - 10 bulbs
Narcissus thalia - 10 bulbs
Narcissus sagitta - 10 bulbs
Narcissus delnashaugh - 10 bulbs
Narcissus "Tete-a-tete" - 10 bulbs
Narcissus "Replete" - 10 bulbs
Narcissus "Rip van Winkle" - 6 bulbs
Narcissus "Spring Cheer" - 5 bulbs

Crocus tommasinianus - lilac and white mixture - 100 bulbs
Crocus tommasinianus "Lilac beauty" - 100 bulbs
Crocus tommasinianus "Roseus" - 100 bulbs
Crocus tommasinianus "Ruby Giant" - 100 bulbs
Crocus tommasinianus "Barr's Purple" - 100 bulb
Hyacinth "Blue grape" - 16 bulbs
Hyacinth "Woodstock" - 5 bulbs

"Checkered lilies" (I think these are fritillaries) - 25 bulbs
Landini Lily - 3 bulbs

Anemone blanda mix - 80 bulbs
Anemone poppy mix - 10 bulbs

Gladiolus byzantinus - 15 bulbs

Oh dear. My wrists hurt already. But my spring garden will be breathtaking. It is worth the effort.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rosie's Enormous Egg

This week, Rosie laid the biggest chicken egg I have ever seen. I am not in the habit of weighing eggs, but this one just called out for the scale.

I determined that the average egg from my flock weighed about 1.5 to 2.1 ounces. Rosie's egg weighed 2.8 ounces. How on earth did she push it out!?

I think she has an emu in her family history.

The goat learning curve

This post is about a learning experience I had with Greta, one of our new goats. She's a bit skittish, as are her two offspring, Ptera and Buford. We had put Ptera and Buford with Pebbles, the friendly goat, to try to teach them that humans were not big scary monsters. We put Greta with Opal, our Nigerian Dwarf, to help her acclimate to us also. Opal is our lap-sitter goat.

I'm still new to goats, so I look at ours often to keep an eye out for things that don't look right. Last week, Greta's udder was looking really swollen on one side. We decided we had to corner her and catch her in order to check it out, and sure enough, it was very warm to the touch, swollen, and reddish coloured.

The first thought we had was "Oh my goodness, she's pregnant" but after consulting with her former owner, we determined this was impossible due to the fixing date of her son, and due to gestation length in goats (she would have been about a month overdue). So, the next concern was mastitis. It's a bacterial infection in the udder, quite common in cows and other milking animals. After some consultation on a goat discussion forum, including some pictures I won't include here, I determined that it must be mastitis, and took myself off to the farm store to buy needles and penicillin G, the recommended treatment.

Mentally, I was steeling myself for the road ahead. Learning how to give a goat an injection in the hind quarters is something I seemed to have missed out on in school. I must have been sick that day. Further consultations with the goat discussion forum folks made me feel that yes, I can actually do this.

After catching Greta, I knelt beside her in an effort to calm her. I talked softly and tried to say goat-calming things. She had a wild look in her eye. Eventually I got around to checking her udder and looking for any discharge or other nastiness. In my checking, I squeezed, in a milking sort of way, and BAM, out came a squirt of milk so fast I had to duck. We grabbed a bucket and sure enough, she didn't have mastitis, nor was she pregnant - she was just STILL lactating a year after her last kid had been born!

Turns out that Buford, Ptera, or both were still nursing enough to keep her lactating a little. Since we separated them, the milk had accumulated over about a week to the point that she was fit to burst. Poor Greta. It took my very unskilled hands about half an hour to milk her and then Kelly had a try for another 15 minutes or so. We ended up with about 6 cups of milk. Because we hadn't really planned for this, we ended up giving the milk to the chickens, who loved it, and the young goats. We had milked into a bucket that hadn't been sanitized and had hay residue in it.

She isn't producing normal milk loads - just a bit. We are going to give it a try again tomorrow. And this time, we will give it a try ourselves!

In the meantime, Muffin the pygmy goat has taken up residence in the hen house at night. She seems to enjoy their company, and they seem to like her as a pillow. Seems that we weren't the only ones to benefit from some learning about goats this week!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Keeping up with the Kritters

It's been a fun week for new additions to our sort-of-farm. I thought I'd show everyone some of the excitement! First, two serama chicks hatched this week. Seramas are the world's smallest chicken. Many of them are, at full size, smaller than pigeons. They have very upright tails as adults and a strut to their walk. I have 3 serama hens that I acquired in a trade, and they laid eggs when I first got them that were fertile, since they had previously been housed with 2 roosters (a buff and black rooster, and a buff and red rooster). I had no idea how the chicks would look, but now 2 have hatched (and 2 to go if they all hatch OK).

Here are the 2 that hatched - one looks like it will be entirely white, and the other one will likely be black and white mixed feathers. As you can see, they are incredibly small, even for chicks. I could fit about 5 of them in my hand. I haven't named them yet. There is this semi-accurate test for sexing baby chicks. You gently turn them on their back in your hand and wait for them to relax. If they stick one leg out, they are likely female, and if they stick both legs out, they are likely male. They invariably do stick either 1 or both legs out, but sometimes they vary. Seems that the most frequent reaction is the key. These appear to be female so far.

Besides these chicks, we acquired 4 new goats. My parents will flip out when they see this post and my dear mother will worry that we have taken on too much. So Mummy, this is a special message to you: Do not worry!!! All is well!!! Remember, I am eccentric, but not completely certifiable.

Our new goats are named Pebbles (she already had that name), Greta (the mom), Buford (the 2-year old son of Greta) and Ptera (the 1-year old daughter of Greta). Kelly named them. He is very fond of pterodactyls. He thinks that Ptera sounds like one when she bleats, which she does do quite often, with much gusto. I'm not sure how he knows what a pterodactyl actually sounded like, but let's just leave him to his imagination.

Anyway, here is Greta. She is a dwarf/toggenburg cross. Toggenburg goats are Swiss goats originating in the valley of the same name. They are known for good milk production and have funny little wattles under their chin. She also has a beard. She is quite gentle but very difficult to catch because she isn't used to human contact. She is presently housed with our Nigerian dwarf goat, Opal.

Greta's son is Buford, and he is a handful! He also is very skittish and doesn't like to be handled. He bleats quite a bit at the moment, but he's been separated from mom, but it's high time because he's 2 years old. He likes to challenge the nubians but they are much bigger than he is. We have a blue dog collar on him to help us catch him if and when necessary. He also has the wattles on his chin, but no beard.

This is Ptera. She has much longer fur than her mother or brother. She has no wattles but she does have a beard. She is very skittish, but quite cute. She bleats even more loudly than Buford. We hope that now they are separated from their mother that they will mellow out a little bit.

Last, but not least, is Pebbles. She is adorably sweet. She gives soft little goat kisses and likes to sniff your ears if you let her. She is extremely overweight and we are putting her on a bit of a diet. She has coarse fur and is some sort of dwarf goat type, but we don't know what type exactly. She is very docile and enjoys head rubs and shoulder rubs and back rubs and any other affection you want to shower upon her. She also comes when called, which is quite endearing.

Opal is continuing to do well, and we believe she has found new love with our frizzled red cochin rooster, Flame. Here they are this evening, all snuggled in for the night. G'night all!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Another one of those days...

Sometimes, things just don't quite work out the way you expected, or wanted, them to. Today was one of those days. I worked from home this morning. This was fine, and I expected to get numerous things done. As is often the way, this began well, and with the best of intentions. Then the post office called. A batch of hatching eggs that I had ordered was in, and would I like to come and pick them up. The post office does this, which is very kind, so that the eggs don't bounce around on the rural roads all day in a postal van, having their insides turned to scrambled egg. They don't tend to be fertile after that.

So, off I went to the post office to collect my eggs. I got to the bottom of the gravel road, intending to turn left. But no, that was not to be. There were two state trooper cars with all lights a-blazing and a row of orange pylons. Clearly, there was some reason that I could not go that way. I had to sit there for a minute collecting my thoughts on how to take an alternate route. I figured it out, and off I went, postulating about what might be occurring that necessitated such police presence in our lazy corner of Iowa.

When I arrived at the post office, the kind lady who works there (and who recognized me instantly, since I have had several boxes of hatching eggs arrive there), saw me, and her face fell. "Oh," she said, with some dismay, "there is a problem with your eggs." This was not what I wanted to hear. They are exciting eggs. Penedesenca eggs - a breed of Spanish chicken that lays very dark brown eggs. Ah well, I braced myself. "The box is leaking," she intoned, "and egg goo got all over a bunch of our other parcels, and we couldn't figure out what it was until we got to your box..." Sigh. This is never a good sign when one is picking up a box of eggs.

Well, she gingerly handed me the box. It was sitting on paper towels and then on plastic. "I didn't want you to get egg goo in your car" she said. Really, the post office ladies are delightful and kind. But someone in the post office, at some point, mishandled the parcel. This is not to day that the box was damaged - it wasn't. But it was leaking. Yellow goo. I mentioned to the postal workers that I'd been waylaid by the road blockage. "Ah yes," she said knowingly, "didn't you hear about the bank robbery?" Turns out the road was closed for several miles and that there was talk of a bank robber who had taken that route and that they were looking for him. This made me a bit worried, because I had left my garage door open when I left, thinking I would be less than 10 minutes, and living in the country, one develops a bit of confidence that nobody in their right mind is voluntarily going to approach your house when it's on this horribly bumpy gravel road. Except, perhaps, for escaping bank robbers.

So, I put the box on the floor of the car with its toweling and plastic, and drove home, with some trepidation, expecting to see the equivalent of the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral or something akin to it. I didn't see anything, fortunately, except the same State Troopers in the same spot. And there was nobody in my garage except the resident mice who I am trying to evict in a nice way. By the way, they are not the deer mice variety of mouse that I wrote about in a previous post. They are the other house mouse type. Not that I have mice in my house. Just the garage. Anyway, I digress.

I opened the box and it was beautifully packaged with each egg individually wrapped in bubble wrap and then taped off, and they were inside a smaller box, that was sitting in wadded newspaper within a bigger box, so it should have been fine. Sadly, 4 of the eggs were shattered. But, 9 of them were fine, and are now in the incubator.

Here you can see the dark penedesenca eggs on the right hand end of the incubator. There are also frizzle, silkie, rosecomb bantam, cochin, serama, and Old English Game bantam eggs in there. This accounts for the varying sizes and colours. I am truly excited about the penedesencas, and will have to report on their eventual hatching.

I cleaned up the egg goo and went to throw out some of the packaging that was all eggy, and determined that there was an unpleasant smell emanating from the general vicinity of the garbage can. My garbage can is stainless steel with an inner plastic "bucket" type of liner that is quite tall. You put a plastic bag inside the liner and then take it out as it fills. Well, I tried to figure it out and took out the bag, but nothing jumped out at me. Then I realized that the bag was leaking. A pool of unidentified liquid was forming on the floor at my feet. So I rushed out with the bag into the garage (hope the mice don't investigate that!) and came back in and began my cleanup. I moved the garbage can to better clean things up, and discovered the source of the smell. The plastic liner bucket was broken on the bottom (how this happened I shall never know) and the liquid had formed a pool under the bin, which had become inhabited by a large colony of fruit flies, and had turned a most unpleasant colour. So, I then had to rush the entire can out to the garage (oh great, a new home for mice) and get back into the kitchen for an even more thorough cleaning and disinfecting session, by which time the entire kitchen smelled of an unpleasant mixture of Caldrea lavender floor cleaner, Swiffer floor cleaning solution and unidentified garbage goo. I was not a happy camper.

Subsequent to this, I realized that the basket of tomatoes on the island had some bad ones in the bottom that had made a pool of tomato goo on the counter, and also were breeding fruit flies and inviting all the ones I had evicted from the garbage situation to settle in. More clean-up ensured, and finally the kitchen was tolerably clean. It is not normally like this. Some days just are too busy to keep up with everything that needs to be done.

So, after all that excitement of State Troopers, egg goo, garbage goo, and tomato goo, I had no time to do any of the things I thought I was going to do, and promptly had to clean myself up and get on the road. It's now 9:30 and I am home. The kitchen smells normal but is, annoyingly, without a garbage can at this time. The news has advised me that the bank robber had held two tellers at gunpoint, made them put money into one of the tellers' cars, which he promptly stole, then ended up being in a high speed chase, and had flipped the car just after the point at which I saw the State Troopers. He died at the scene and of course the teller needs a new vehicle. Clearly, somebody had a morning that was far worse than mine. I am thankful for small mercies.