Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chicken Trauma

Having a single flock of free-ranging birds (12 guinea fowl and 2 chickens) regularly establishes exactly why we DON'T free range our egg-laying flock.

Tuesday night, James raced into the house with a seemingly incoherent account of birds, dogs, and missing ears.  I asked him to be quiet as the baby was asleep, not really registering his actual words, and he said,  "She's missing.  I need you outside right now."

J&J's bird dog had escaped her leash.  Again.  Another neighbor's son, seeing the dog headed for our yard, tried to get his dog to distract the dog.  Even in writing that sounds like a bad plan, and it was even worse in reality.  Their dog, Sophie, is loathed and despised by Hope.  J&J's dog and Sophie went after our guinea flock.  James saw one bird at least potentially dismembered, then Hope went after Sophie and tore off part of her ear (and, might I confess, later went back to the field of battle and ate said missing ear after we couldn't find it?).  James traversed the neighborhood in search of the neighbor's errant bird dog.

And that, my friends, was the beginning of a two hour search for my birds.  I was initially able to locate 11 guineas, no chickens.  All appeared to be uninjured.  After another 15 or so minutes, I found Darkest Winter, our gimpy chicken, hiding behind the barn.  She was uninjured.  After another 20-30 minutes, I found 12 guineas huddled on the neighbor's roof.  No Stew.

Stew's feathers littered our yard like a rained out TP party.  Searching, searching, searching with a sick feeling in my stomach.  I really didn't want to find a bird bloodied and needing to be euthanized, nor did I really want to find a dead bird.  Finding a live, healthy chicken seemed to be an impossibility.

James eventually came back and joined the search.  He invited neighbor boys with a bribe of money to help.

Still, given my record at finding things, I finally found Stew.  Alive.  Unbloodied.  Missing a lot of feathers, but otherwise okay.  She had hidden herself in a clump of decorative grasses and looked like an old weathered log.
She cursed us roundly for cooping her up, but she needed to be monitored for a few days.  We did add bedding and food to the dog crate.  She didn't move for almost 24 hours, but this morning was up and at 'em when I took the kids to school, so I released her back to her flock.

Poor girl.  James is right.  Is this poor chicken lucky to have survived or unlucky to get picked on so much?

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

P.S.  She had finally started to lay eggs again.  I'm thinking she'll have stopped again for quite a while.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Misty Morning

Temperatures remained above freezing last night, for the first time in a while, so the air was heavy with moisture on my way to deliver Spunky to her ride to school.
The Assistant is suffering from a nasty persistent and prolonged cough, so she's home for the day.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 1

Thanksgiving was late this year and Advent early, so the Saturday after Thanksgiving we ran out for our Christmas tree.  Since it's a fairly local tree farm, we could it pick it out and still be home in less than two hours.

Our Advent custom is to hang our Jesse tree ornaments on our actual Christmas tree.  While others use a stick or branch, we decided this is the best way to incorporate our Advent traditions into Christmas.  So the tree is bare... lights, since they have to go on first, one Jesse tree ornament, and an ornament for each child to hang.  Tomorrow, another few will be added.
 We decorate the house in the same manner... slowly, deliberately, and as a crescendo that will reach its high point Christmas eve with a fully decorated tree and everything ready for Christmas.  Even our Nativity scene comes out piece by piece, starting with Mary, Joseph, and the donkey.

This gives me a chance to clean as we go and gives my husband a little closer to his childhood tradition of Christmas being out all Advent.  In my family, the tree was decorated Christmas eve and not before.

After a few weeks of unseasonably frigid November weather, it's nice for December to start out pleasantly:
 The end of the week will be more chilly weather, but this gives me time to make further preparations for the cold, as one of our roosters suffered minor frostbite on the tips of his comb one of the last "under 20" days.
 The guineas are still busy finding bugs and seeds to eat, as they aren't interested in their feed (which is just fine with me!  It was attracting mice to their coop.)
Happy Advent!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Another One Bites the Dust

 Bradford pear trees, although beautiful, may be my least favorite tree.  Why?  The smell horrible in the spring and drive our allergies bonkers.  They also fall apart in a stiff breeze.  Our last loss was in August, so to lose another so soon is nothing short of frustrating.

 Because the winds were due to change direction the evening this happened, with the wind due to knock down the next third quite possibly onto the deck, we decided to act quickly.  James mowed down the remaining sections with only a near miss or two (tree felling is not for the faint of heart!).

It took us two days to clean up, with James cutting into fireplace lengths and splitting as necessary, as well as loading limbs onto the trailer to take to the green waste dump (no fires this time; we simply don't have time.  JoJo has been out of sorts, so his neediness slowed us down significantly.

The second day, (Sunday... not our favorite day for labor), we geared up in the afternoon with overalls for the kids.  They were so cute it required a photo.  Overalls were great because the kids wanted to climb in the limbs and were getting scratched up.

 One trailer and one truck bed load later, we realize the trailer hitch for the truck is missing.  This is the way it often goes.

Approaching the end.  Throughout the experience, we were reminded of the phrase "two is one, one is none."  Two trailer hitches would be nice (or not losing the first one... it's a long story as to why it's not on the truck), and two chainsaws were necessary, as well as two axes.
 As the last wagon loads of firewood were loaded and stacked, it was necessary to check out the age of our failed tree.  33 years, which would make it as old as the house.
 We only have another... 10 or so... Bradford pears to eventually split.  James thinks we may be able to save them in the future.  Depending on the requirements to save one, I'm game, especially since all our pines have pine wilt and will be requiring removal in the next few years.  And there's two dead trees waiting for us.


Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


 In between the rain storms (3+" in the last few days), I stopped to admire my view during my circuit of chicken chores...

The garlic bulbs have poked little green stems through the soil.  I had almost forgotten this were here.  It's nice to know I didn't kill them.

 The garden is a weedy, flat place after most of the trellises have been removed.  I have one row left of tomato vines to pile up, and two rows of fence.  Then, fire will take what it will.

 The asparagus is beginning to die back.  I may harvest a few seeds this fall to attempt asparagus seedling next year.  I may.  I may not.
 Hoses have been pulled up.  Most are coiled neatly for next year, but a few, pulled out in the middle of harvesting, still need some care and attention.  Once they dry (ah, I love the rain!), I will store them for next year.  I didn't realize how many hoses we had accumulated.  I suppose that happens when the movers put them in three different places last summer when we moved, and we bought more after most of the hoses were laid out.
 Our guineas and exiled (freed?) chickens are enjoying an afternoon meal outside the Love Shack.
Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Some part of me wishes I could craft a wistful blogpost about the changing of seasons, but I find that most of all, I am exhausted in the fall.
 With the changing of the leaves comes harvest after harvest, each demanding its own type of attention. Corn cobs and sunflower heads still hold their bounty, and when the more perishable food is put up, these will be addressed.   Three afternoons of sweet potato digging have yielding a happy harvest, although thinner than I expected.  This afternoon, I will be stripping sorghum heads.  This is new to me, so I anticipate plenty of problems and slow going.
 Most of the neighboring farms have harvested their sorghum as well (albeit on a much larger scale than my own), although I think a few were caught in the rain and have to wait for the fields to dry.
 After the frost of last week, the garden is done.  I have been tearing out tomato refuse and piling it for burning.  All but two rows of fencing are down.  Cooler weather makes this task easier, but I also find the mornings are already too chill for the boys to accompany me, which makes outdoor tasks hard to accomplish.

When the sun rises and sets with less and less daylight, my body responds by reminding me how little sleep I got in the summer.  Summer was a time of up at dawn and to bed after the sun.  Necessary, but the body can only take it for so long.  Now I still have plenty to do, but am feeling slower and slower.

Not only are there plenty of harvest chores to attend to, but with the arrival of frost comes cold weather considerations: how will we over-winter our chickens, what can be left outside to the elements, dealing with dead trees, preparing ourselves with plenty of firewood.  The list goes on.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Rain, Sleet, and Snow

... with the first frost due in by morning.

I spent this morning filling gaps in the white whale (our white/PVC chicken tractor).  We'll see how the chickens come through this light freeze!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fall is Here

I've cooked down the last of the tomatoes worth eating.  From here on out, until I finish tearing out the last two rows of tomatoes, anything left on the vines can go to the chickens.

Oh, to have nothing to do but snap random pictures while someone else does my work.  Instead, Bear Cub Q took a few for me, including this of of the dog.
 We've finally... finally... finally... begun gathering eggs from our Turkens.  I must say, the sight of those two little eggs in the nesting boxes was enough to make me whoop for joy.  If you know me, you know not much makes me whoop!
The eggs made for a particularly rich rice pudding, as evidenced by the fact that two little girls ate an entire batch, leaving only the rice stuck to the sides for DH and I to eat when we came in from chores!
 These are luffa sponges.  When harvested young, they can be eaten, but I'm hoping they survive a week or two more before a frost and mature enough to form the spongy interior.  The one below should almost definitely be successful, but after harvesting one too early, I am loathe to cut anything off!
 Finally, here is the {mostly} tidied asparagus bed.  I won't be pulling out these fronds until they die back.  The new plants are not nearly so sprawling, but look rather pathetic in their smallness, so I skipped taking a picture.
Onions in storage are beginning to sprout, so I guess it's time for another round of onion-chopping!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

YJ Acres Updates

Fowl pox is clearing up nicely.  There have been no deaths.  Some chickens have thus far been unaffected, so I understand we have a reoccurrence/continuance of the unpleasantness.  Appetites seem good, as does general health.

This poor hen has had two neck injuries from fights.  They heal up, but it does leave her with a strange neck.

 Andromeda and the chickens aren't sure what to do with one another.
The guinea flock has remained stable since the fox attacks.  The babies have grown so much that, at first glance, they are indistinguishable from the adults.  Their faces don't yet have the "painted" look, but I can see it developing.

Behind them, the orchard is doing well.
 I am slowly redeeming the strawberry patch.  There is a distinct emphasis on the word "slowly."
 We're having the obligatory fall "odd" weather.  The wind, clouds, and animals all indicate that mischief may be afoot!
I'll leave you with our happy Hope!  She loves to bark at school buses, coyotes, foxes, and neighborhood dogs.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Friday, October 4, 2013

More Bird Woes

Oh, chickens, must we be so challenging?

Meet Stew.  I named her Stew as she was, under initial observation, a pest.  She has been the runt of every chicken flock we introduced her to, so much so that she was constantly bloody and half the size of the other chickens.  She came to us in bad condition, and we had not succeeded in making her life more pleasant.  Out of a desire to give her a decent life (and since she doesn't lay eggs, probably due to malnourishment), we decided to throw her in with the guinea fowl and allow her to free range.
Oh, the peace.  She can be a bit aggressive with our guinea "teens," but not a single guinea attacks her.  She's eating pounds of food, enjoying exploring, and her condition is improving.

We recently added a chicken friend to the guinea run.  This is Darkest Winter (long story).  She broke her leg during a coop move thanks to our aggressive chickens (we're a work in progress here, people).  In order to protect her from attacks, we moved her into the run attached to the guinea coop.  Since it was unused except for when we had to be absent from home, she could rest quietly, access food and water, and not be harassed.
She's much spunkier than when we first moved her in, as you can see from her being on her feet.  Maybe we should have splinted her leg, but my research showed people to be ambivalent on this task, and she was already quite distressed.  Splinting might have killed her.

I am hopeful that Darkest Winter will heal and return to the coop.  If not, she may stay with the guineas.  Only time will tell.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fowl Pox

I feel terrible for our chickens, as it appears many of them are suffering from fowl pox (fortunately, it appears to be the dry/external type rather than the wet/internal/more deadly type).

Because Naked Necks have more "feather-free" areas, I noticed the spots on their necks before the faces, but I {think} fowl pox is the culprit.
 There's nothing to be done, and other than vaccinating, nothing to prevent it.  I haven't failed in sanitation or feeding, as pox is usually transmitted by mosquitoes.  What am I going to do about mosquitoes?
I pray we have few, if any, resulting deaths, and am grateful that thus far, their appetites and behavior seem to be pretty normal.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

No Idle Hands Here

"I don't know what that deer's thinkin', but she's thinkin' crazy."

The Assistant made the above comment about a deer that persists in running into our vehicles.  James has actually "love tapped" it once, and we've seen it repeatedly, usually far too close for comfort!

I think we might be "thinkin' crazy" around here too, as we have put far too many things on our plate!

There's corn to dry and separate for cornmeal.

A chicken coop to complete.

Neighbor's apples to harvest, juice, and can.  (I might try fruit vinegar this year as well!)

 Weeds (and more weeds) to pull.  At least I freed the mailbox from the volunteer mulberry tree and the chest high weeds.

 The same cannot be said about the flagpole bed.
 And then, in case we weren't busy enough, this lovely catapas tree was struck my lightning.  This was (and is) traumatic on many levels.  Firstly, it will have to be cut down, as the entire center is dying.

 Secondly, there is a large field of debris.  We are SO blessed that no one or no animal was near the tree, and that James' truck windows weren't burst.
 Unfortunately, said lightning strike fried a breaker in our house and I am having trouble getting an electrician.  We did get power back in a reasonable amount of time, and AT&T replaced our modem by midday, giving me the freedom of internet and phone access again.

There are bushes and weeds running rampant.
 At least I finally cleared the table of harvest mess.  You can still see the bucket of sunflower heads waiting me to the left, but all the peppers, beans, and tomatoes are corralled or preserved (for now!)/
With a grateful heart for the food and shelter around us, I'm back to work!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.