10 March, 2012

Answering Googled Questions

“why do spring peepers sing”

What you’re hearing is male frogs attempting to a) claim territory and b) attract a beautiful lady frog to them for the purpose of procreation. Lady spring peeper frogs apparently find that little “peep? peep!” deeply sexy, and will head for the sexiest and most peepery peeps, whereupon if the gentleman frog has also managed to claim a nice puddle, a stork will arrive and deliver tadpoles.

In other news, the incubator is on lockdown and baby chickens are due to arrive on Tuesday, when I will be at work. Boo hiss. Daniel has been tasked with updating me every hour at least on the status of pips, zips, and chicks in the incubator. It is entirely possible that by the time I get home, the hatching will be all over. Of course, given how contrary baby chickens can be at times, it is also possible that by the time I get home, we will have one pip with a baby chicken staring balefully out at us through the hole. You never know with these guys, really.

4 March, 2012

Spring is always sort of hopeful.

So despite the fact that apparently NO ONE ON THE PLANET wants to hire me, or at least if they do they don’t have offices located in Northern Virginia, I am feeling kind of hopeful.

And anyway, there are still good things going on. For instance, yesterday we went down to see Christine and picked up baby chickens! Three Madagascar Games and ten bantam Sumatras. Alas, one of the little Madagascars didn’t make it through the night, but then she hadn’t grown any since hatching so I suspect there was something odd going on there. The remaining dozen chicks are doing just fine.

There’s also eggs in the incubator, due to hatch in 9 days — a mix of eggs from Christine’s flocks and six crele Old English Game Bantam eggs from Merlin and his ladies (we’d set him up with a flock of 3 ladies of his very own for just this purpose).

Daniel’s been working over the garden beds, too, so today I planted what I am affectionately calling our “Salad Bed”. It’s got salad beets, lettuce, spinach, sugar snap peas, and short fat Nantes carrots in it. Plus a row of garlic, which is not really a salady thing but we do love garlic so there we go. There’s one more bed being worked over nice and deep for potatoes, Other Carrots, parsnips, and salsify. We have a lot of other stuff left to go in but most of it needs waiting until the temps warm up a little more and the threat of frost is past. So in a couple weeks it will be time to plant other peas, sweet corn, sugar pumpkins, cantaloupe, muskmelon, Bull’s Blood beets, endive (chicory to some), romaine lettuce, and I am probably forgetting something in there. Oh, squash, we have buttercup and butternut squash to plant, as well. Daniel should probably get going on the beds.

Later this year I’ll be learning to pickle beets, because I do love some pickled beets. And anyway, at least between the garden and the chickens we won’t starve to death, for sure. If we’re lucky, the weird warm winter hasn’t destroyed the blackberry crop, and I can make some jam and just can some berries straight up for pie filling and the like.

Speaking of the weird warm winter, the grey tree frogs are out in force already a little east of us, so the spring peepers cannot be far behind. And there’s slugs out already, in early March! How’s THAT for weird? We normally don’t see them til a little later in the spring!

At any rate, pictures of baby chickens to follow once I have found the charger for Daniel’s camera…

6 January, 2012

Another semester rolls around again…

After taking a year or so off to relax (ha!) it’s back to school today for me. Well, technically it’s back to school tomorrow, since my one in-person class meets on Saturdays. Then there’s three more classes, all online. Once this semester is over, I’ll have just two classes left to finish my associate’s degree, and then I’ve got to figure out what the heck I want to do about a bachelor’s.

Meanwhile, back at the Manor, the hens are providing us with around a dozen eggs a day between the bantams and the standard-sized hens. The dogs are enjoying eggy treats regularly to keep us from being overwhelmed, but we just can’t feed them enough eggs to make a serious dent in the number the hens provide. In another month it will be time to start hatching, but because of the size of my incubator that’s not going to make a serious dent, either. I think we’re going to have to start living on quiche, is all.

10 November, 2011

More Sad News

Daniel found One dead yesterday — our young rooster, who was the first chicken to ever hatch at the Manor. Like Bebelina’s death, this one was sudden, mysterious, and totally unexpected. There was not a mark on him, and no previous signs of illness.

We’re sincerely hoping this is the end of it. The pen, house, feeders, and waterers have gotten an unscheduled cleaning, and if we lose a third bird I’ll be calling the state veterinary office about a free necropsy.

Oh and then I got home from work and the handle broke on the toilet.

This week is fired.

8 November, 2011

Actual Death Experience

Yesterday was a sad day at the Manor, as our Welsummer hen Bebelina died suddenly. She was just over a year old and up until this fall’s molt she was a faithful layer of dark brown eggs. We’ll miss her.

The babies in the house continue to do well, and Baal is looking more grown-up by the moment. I’m thinking that when Melchior is healed-up enough to go back outside, I will pair her with Baal so that he has a buddy in the integration process, although it will mean integrating Melchior with the banty flock rather than the Big Chickens. On the other hand, Melchior is a tiny thing, so I think Bantytown is a more appropriate home for her.

5 November, 2011

Near Death Experience

Daniel and I went out to feed and water the chickens this morning and also move the three adolescents who were living in the shed into an integration pen in the Pen for Big Chickens. We thought we’d closed their crate after grabbing their waterer but apparently not, because while we were out at the Pen for Big Chickens getting their new home ready, Melchior the Little Blue Vulture got out and got tackled by dogs.

Luckily we were close enough to intervene and Melchior has one small slash where left wing meets the body. She is now in the house recovering in the same dog crate that held Zombirella after she got the back of her head pecked off.

I’m not angry at the dogs, who were just doing what large predators do when a small prey animal goes flapping by, but I’m pretty mightily irritated with myself for not making sure the crate was firmly closed and latched. Here’s hoping that Melchior has a swift and uneventful recovery!

19 October, 2011

Deathplague continues, eggs go into lockdown, etc etc.

Stayed home yesterday as a result of whatever Deathplague it is that has filled my sinuses with concrete. The good news is that after a day of mostly remaining motionless in my recliner taking drugs, I am starting to feel like a human being again. I have not managed to lose my voice, probably because Daniel has been bringing me tea on-demand. Chai, with honey and milk. It is so good. He also got me a dinosaur play set today when he went out to get me more drugs! So I have had dinosaurs to play with while languishing in my chair. I think he is the Best Husband Ever, really. Today is his birthday, and he’s been living here for over 13 months now and I have not tried to kill him even once. This is how you can tell he is a pretty stellar person. He has put up with chickens, feral cats in the bathroom, being the Vet Trip Chauffeur, puking dogs, screaming cats, baby chickens in the house, that time I accidentally kidnapped Pawpower, earthquakes (well OK, only one), apocalyptic storms involving either snow or rain or both, and me looking all wild-eyed and trying to make a case for a mini-cow, and yet has not tried to kill or divorce me even a little bit. Definitely the Best Husband Ever.

Twelve of the original 24 eggs in the incubator went into lockdown. Three of the four of my eggs that were in there did not develop. One I wasn’t expecting to but the others were from the Modern Game Bantams. I shall have a pep talk with Kemuel, the rooster, about doing his duty and fertilizing the eggs. The remaining egg is from the porcelain silkies. The eggs left in the incubator and probably going to hatch starting sometime on Friday are blacks, blues/splashes, lavenders/lav splits, porcelains/porc splits, and one lone partridge egg. All of them are from silkies, so this will add several adorable balls of floof to the Manor, at least until I figure out who I’m keeping and who I’m selling off.

Meanwhile, we’re pretty sure we have Mr. Beckett’s transportation situation figured out, which means he will go off to his new home next week. It’s always such a bitter-sweet time when one of the former ferals heads off to a new home. Sweet, because we are at the limit for cats we can really care for well; bitter, because we can’t help but love them while they’re in our care. Still, while we won’t be glad to see him go, we’re definitely happy that he’ll have people who can give him more attention than he can get here. He’s turned out to be a very interactive kind of cat who loves to snuggle.

17 October, 2011

For a more substantive update…

Although I happen to think my struggle to get Daniel on board with my desire for a mini-cow is quite substantive, thank you.

Christine came up on Saturday and we all went to Home Depot and bought a metric crap-ton of lumber and also nails and roofing panels and another hammer and another ladder. Then we all came back here and put a roof on Bantytown which is quite nice if I do say so myself, and entailed very little blood, sweat, or tears thanks to Christine’s ability to engineer a roof on the fly. Then we got the exterior framing up for the Bantytown Suburb that will be divided into three four foot by eight foot breeding pens, which is quite roomy for a little breeding group of bantam chickens. Merlin and four of his ladies will get one, Remiel and Kefziel the little black bantams will get one, and then the last is reserved for lavender silkies although I may stick Belphegor, who is probably a rooster, and a couple hens in it for the nonce as it will be a while before the lavs are old enough for me to even know what gender they are, let alone breed.

Daniel and I might have managed to finish the framing yesterday and made at least a start on the wire walls, but I either have the world’s most miserable head cold plus body aches from overdoing yesterday (although I was really mostly useless yesterday except for fetching water and pointing majestically at things) or I have DEATHFLU with completely blocked sinuses and body aches. Oh, and I’m losing my voice, which is why I’m really sad that Daniel and I weren’t able to take our American Sign Language class this semester.[1] I must brush up on my ASL vocabulary that I’ve been working on via Lifeprint and then Daniel can just learn it on the fly. He’ll be delighted, I’m sure.

The twenty-one eggs in the incubator go on lockdown on Wednesday, at which point I will give them all one last candling and get rid of any that are not about to hatch, in order to give the hatching chicks a little more room. Then on Friday, Hatchapalooza Three will start — I’m sure I will cover it on Twitter as usual! And then on Sunday, I will sanitize the incubator and start collecting eggs from my porcelain silkies, as well as my Modern Game Bantams, for round two!

Still need someone between Ruby, NY and Boston, MA to give Mr. Thomas a Beckett a ride to his new home on the 27th of this month. Anybody?

[1] The earthquake at the end of August severely damaged the local community college, and as a result our class went from being 1730-1900 twice a week to 1800-2100 once a week, which is just not doable when I need to go to bed at 2000 in order to get up at 0400.[2]

[2] I know, I still use military time. Subtract 1200 from all numbers big enough for you to do it without zeroing out.

13 October, 2011

I’m still standing

Ack! I am sorry to have worried people with the long quiet – I didn’t realize quite how long it had been and then people started getting worried. Everything is fine here, it’s just been a busy time! What have I been up to?

1) Working Sid! He worked for four hours, a new record, at the State Fair one Saturday. He was freakin brilliant and handled everything with grace except for some worry when we were among the various steam engines. I had a bit of a nervous moment when we decided to cautiously try looking at the goats. I was worried that Sid would distress the goats and was prepared to leave quickly if they looked alarmed. What I was not prepared for was the fact that the goats all started moving towards us in their little pens, even climbing up on the panels to get a better look. We skedaddled before we could find out what, exactly, the goats were intending to do. It just seemed easier on everyone that way.

He also worked for a couple hours at Carter Mountain Orchard another Saturday, and was mostly brilliant. But we clearly need to work harder on his “Ignoring Other Dogs” skills.

I’ve added a banner to his harness handle that says “IGNORE ME I’M WORKING” which is helping HUGELY reduce the number of people who decide to try to distract him while he’s working, but I’m still kind of bitter about the die-hard dog lovers who just have to coo and call to him. It’s extra embittering because it means I don’t feel very much like I’m part of the wider community of Dog People anymore since they’re the ones who absolutely insist that their desire to interact with Siddy is more important than my safety.

2) Doing Chickenstuff! I set 24 eggs in the incubator a little over 10 days ago, so they’ve still got a while to go. I candled them at the 10 day mark and three had not developed, so I pulled them. There’s a couple others I’m not sure about, so I’ll be candling them again here soon to see if those eggs have developed at all and if not, pulling them to make room for hatching, which should happen between October 21 and 23 (there’s a bit of a range of dates that I was setting eggs). Meanwhile I’m waiting (im)patiently for the silkies I bought earlier this year to finish growing up, but I think I have a good breeding trio of blues and a black rooster (Belphegor).

This weekend we’re building some breeding pens for chickens, renovating existing chicken pens, and generally winterizing them all. If you’re local enough to want to help out let me know, we will feed you after we have used you for manual labor!

3) We are pretty sure Mr. Thomas a Beckett has a home! The last remaining problem is that it’s in Boston. I have a ride for him on October 26th or 27th up to Ruby, NY, but we still need to get him that last 200 miles, so if you are between Ruby, NY, and Boston, MA, and would like to help Mr. Beckett get home, please click on “Contact” up there and let me know!

4) Cleaning out my yarn stash. The time has come to admit that I do not knit enough to reasonably keep all the yarn I have, so I’m going through it and selecting a bunch to send off to friends who are busier knitters than I am. This has cleared out a bunch of room in the yarn closet, which let me clean off a good chunk of my work table, but there’s still more to do (mostly getting dog paraphernalia somewhere else to live) so that I can set up my sewing machine and serger. Of course, in the middle of this the eggs in the incubator are going to hatch and my room is going to be filled with baby chickens again…

5) Knitting. I know, I just said I don’t knit much. But when the weather gets cooler, I get the urge to knit things, and since fall has descended upon us most emphatically, I’ve taken up yarn and needles again. I also need to go ahead and clean out my stash of dyeable stuff by actually dyeing it and then possibly seeing about selling it as I must admit that, realistically speaking, I am not going to wear that many silk and cotton scarves. Although it is getting colder…

I think that’s everything! Well, not quite, we also hit up the Fall Fiber Festival and Sheepdog Trials at James Madison’s Montpelier, which was a hoot and a half and I bought a very small and reasonable amount of yarn and also a lambskin to use padding out some spots on Sid’s harness that I’m not entirely happy with. Watching the border collies move sheep around is always great. Usually it’s quite warm for the fiber festival and the sheep are kind of somnolent; this year it was cool and damp and the sheep were belligerent and giving the dogs and shepherds a lot more trouble than I’ve seen previously. And there was a visit to Blackthorn Kennel so Sid could run around like a lunatic and Daniel and I could hang out with Christine and admire her chickens. Sid still desperately hopes that Christine’s dog Coal will be his friend, and Coal just keeps ignoring Sid while Siddy gets more and more frantic licking his face and wagging his tail and generally acting like a kid with no friends sucking up.

I think that really is everything this time… I will try to behave myself and not go so long without updates!

28 September, 2011

Daily Poultry: Zombirella and One

Zombirella I believe I mentioned here as the young pullet who got the back of her head pecked off down to bone. It turns out chickens are startlingly resilient; we moved her into the house, got her antibiotics and kept her safe from flies and infection, and these days you can’t even tell where the pecking happened since the wound closed up and the feathers are growing back in. She’s become a favorite of ours, since spending those weeks in the house she has decided that people are definitely her friends and comes running to be petted whenever we go out to the Big Chicken Pen.

One is, of course, the first chick ever hatched at the Manor. I swear he’s a cockeral, Daniel claims he’s a pullet. I guess we’ll find out who’s right in the coming months as he finishes growing up!

Zombirella and One step around the corner of the chicken house to regard the camera-wielding thumb monkey.  Zombirella is a leggy young bird dressed in multiple shades of brown, with willow-green legs and no comb to speak of.  One is equally leggy but his legs are bright yellow and he has a small, pink, wrinkly comb.  His head is turned in profile, showing off the beginnings of wattles as well as the lovely dark auburn of his head and the sides of his neck, the front of his neck and his breast being black.

One is actually colored just like their daddy Blackbeard. I should probably bet Daniel money that One is a rooster-to-be, because I am that sure of it. One of these days, One is going to go roostertastic — probably about the time we move Mad Mel the Magnificent into a pen with some beardless silkies in case I want showgirl chicks.

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