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Dealing with Unexpected Thanksgiving Guests

I almost forgot to tell y’all this story. On Thanksgiving Day the husband and I went out to do the chores in the morning and discovered two black vultures had locked themselves in our chicken pen.

The chicken pen is normally left open at all times so that the poultry who sleep there can get in and out to free range at will. The day before Thanksgiving had been cold and drizzly, and we’d tossed some leftovers into the pen so the chickens and guinea fowl could get a good meal and stay dry. Among the leftovers was a chicken carcass, which is probably why we ended up with a pair of vultures.

They were beautiful and by far the calmest of the birds who have gotten trapped in our chicken pen. Once a juvenile Coopers Hawk got in there and couldn’t get out because our three game roosters were taking turns beating the crap out of him. Another time a crow got in and then, despite the vaunted intelligence of corvids, couldn’t figure out how to go out the door he’d just come in. Both the hawk and the crow were upset and panicking, although admittedly the poor hawk had reason to panic what with the roosters trying to kill him.

The vultures on the other hand were very mellow. They didn’t get upset until we got within about eight feet of them. The rest of the time they hung out, preening and exploring and pecking things. We opened the door for them and left them to it, and they continued to hang out on the ground right next to the open door. They preened, they took dust baths, they pecked at the empty feeder. I was starting to feel guilty because here it was Thanksgiving and they’d been locked in all night and might be hungry, so I found them the rib cage of a rabbit carcass we’d roasted and tossed it in to them. They thought food delivery was pretty good.

A few hours later, however, their idyll came to an end when our flock of guinea fowl discovered them and ran them out of the pen. Six guinea fowl are, apparently, able to terrify two young vultures into submission. Who knew?

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Busy times all over! Also, wanna help a kitten?

We went up to Ikea to get a new USA made mattress this past Sunday and I made Siddy work. He was freakin brilliant — handled the crowds with aplomb, stayed right next to me, never got too stressed to respond to a click and always took the treats and ate them thoughtfully. He’s really shaping up quite nicely I think.

In chicken world, there has been some excitement. One and Three moved out to a segregated portion of the Big Chicken Pen, but Three at some point got out and lost a sizeable chunk of skin off the back of her head. One consult with the vet and some expensive antibiotics later, she’s living indoors in our largest cat carrier to heal up and doing quite well. Also we have been calling her Zombirella, because the back of her head really did look that bad. Here’s a pic of her good side, you can see she is alert and at that stage of chicken development where they look kind of like raptors rather than chickens.

Zombirella, a rich golden brown pullet, looks out through the bars of the cat carrier in an interested fashion.  You can see the feathers on the far side of her head are rumpled and also there's not as many there as there ought to be.

The large carrier is not an ideal living place for a chicken, so we’re hoping she heals quickly and can get back outside. But she’s still quite small, and the carrier is pretty big, so she has room to stretch and flap and perch and also do some scratching and pecking for her food once she has knocked it out of her dish (chickens are messy eaters).

Both bantam chicks from the last hatch have died — just failure to thrive. I have been reading exhaustively and have some ideas for the next time I set bantam eggs on incubator settings and early-life care, so hopefully we won’t have the same problem again. Although to be fair one of them I was expecting to not make it, since he hatched with the yolk-sac still attached and generally those chicks do not make it past their first weeks of life. The six blue-laced red Wyandottes that hatched have moved on to Christine’s place, leaving little Melchior, the son of Mel and Ayinnanku, to keep company with the Sumatra chicks. He is thriving and happy!

Crispin and Clementine went off to their new homes a little over a week ago now and are doing well. Constantine and Coriander are still here for another week and a half and then they, too, will be off to their new people, and Briar Rose will come in.

And meanwhile, speaking of formerly feral kittens, my friend Kate at Om Shanti Naturals has taken in the first of a litter of kittens that showed up in her back yard. So far she’s only caught the one, but vetting is expensive as we all know! So if you have been looking for some yummy hand-crafted soap, moisturizing oils, bath products, lip balms, or salves, could you putter over to the shop and pick up an item or two? You get a delicious bath product, kitten gets vetted without Kate having to live on ramen and cat hair for a month, and it’s just generally win-win all around. Om Shanti is, after all, the home of the world’s ONLY official Tink-branded and endorsed beauty product, Tink’s Tea Tree Lavender Salve, ideal for treating the minor bumps and scrapes that life deals out. There is even body wash to match although Tink has not tried it yet (she generally does not endorse any product that involves her getting a B. A. T. H. anyway — you know how diva-esque dogs can be).

So anyway, there’s the news round-up and my pitch. Hope you’re all doing well, gentle readers, and I will try to be more regular about my updates!

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The Return of the Entertainment!Puppy

Yesterday morning, Daniel met up with Christine to collect Blackthorn’s Musket. No, we are not keeping him for good, he’s just here for the weekend while she’s off having fun without Mr. Musketbutt. Still, it’s good to have him around, he may be a very intense sort of dog but he’s also just an all around swell guy, affectionate and interested in absolutely everything going on in the house. Daniel is looking forward to playing even more fetchy than usual[1] and I am looking forward to a second opportunity to teach Musket helpful behaviors like the Elbow-Flipping Nudge of Doom and how to escape his crate by yodeling.

The Dobes are slightly non-plussed and Tink is mad-teething like a very mad-toothed thing, but they’ll get over it and maybe when Musket goes home again they will appreciate their own quiet and laid-back Shedder. Who is, incidentally, very happy to have another Shedder to play with, although she has gained enough self-confidence to tell him off when he tries to steal her ball while playing fetch. In an appropriate manner, of course, Zille has developed into an amazing doggy diplomat.

Meanwhile, Musket finds EVERYTHING exciting, because he is that kind of dog. A cat! How exciting! Another dog! How exciting! A person! How Exciting! THE WORLD, HOW EXCITING! He really needs a Job, an official one that engages his brain and even gives him something to do with all his physical energy. Currently, he’s focusing his considerable brainpower on staring at Aida through a gate, which does not amuse Aida in the least.

In other news, I discovered when doing tags on this post that I have a “dogs suck” tag. I can’t imagine why.


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Action Puppy Goes Home

We sent Musket back to Blackthorn Kennel yesterday with Christine, who came to pick him up. The house seems kind of quiet without him and we do miss him, although we knew all along he was just here for the week. It was a great learning experience for all concerned I think. If I had the time to put into training with him, Christine would have had to pry Musket from my cold dead hands, seriously. He is going to make someone a great working partner: willing, bright, able, and happy to snuggle or keep your feet warm at the end of the day. He’s polite to other dogs, learns quickly not to bother dog-savvy cats who are willing to whack him once or twice, but a little bit of a pest with a cat who has a serious lack of healthy fear like Rooney Lee. Someone looking for a working candidate is going to get a real treasure in Musket, I tell you what.

In other news, we’ve received 19 eggs from the chickens, which means we are down to $42/egg. We sent six home with my parents at Thanksgiving, since they wanted to try home-raised eggs. Ayinnanku and Bebelina continue to grow, and we’re hopeful that soon they’ll be able to go in with the big chickens since temps are dropping here at the Manor.

And now it’s time to go enjoy a movie with the family, although we will have an empty spot on the futon and no one will be dropping balls coated in a heavy layer of dog slobber on us at key moments in the film. Ah, Musket, you’ll be missed!

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Here is Musket, being Entertainment!Puppy briefly. It has to be brief because if you play hose with him for too long, he swallows dangerously large amounts of air and water. But, y’know, a brief game on a warm and sunny fall afternoon is pretty good stuff.

Water: runs!
Musket: I KEEL YOU! *snap*
Water: runs some more.
Musket: DIE! *SNAP*
Water: still running!

He really does love to play hose and was all kinds of disappointed when I declared the game over after 30 seconds because I didn’t want him to bloat. He is also deeply interested in pretty much everything humans are doing and would like to be involved, please. Oh and he is convinced that he is a lapdog, at least where Daniel is concerned, and is prone to heaving his front half into Daniel’s lap while clutching a slimy tennis ball in his mouth. He will attempt to hand you his slimy tennis ball repeatedly if you don’t appear to be busy, which would be more charming if it didn’t result in slime-trails on the legs of your pants as he rolls it enticingly across your leg.

On the plus side, he regards it as a pretty fun game if you take the ball, ask him to sit, and then hand it back while encouraging him to take it nicely from your hand. This doggy, he LOVES to work, even simple work. I almost feel like I should be having him do my Econ homework or something for me. I’m pretty sure that if he thought I’d throw the ball afterward, he would definitely work up the supply curve for an oligopolistic industry.

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Mister Fluffybutt Gets A Clue

It’s interesting having a puppy in the house again. I mean, Musket is not a tiny puppy, but he is only 10 months old. This is occasionally difficult to remember because he’s a big boy, but at ten months old he’s not really expected to have his WHOLE brain grown in. He does have half a brain, and it’s a pretty prodigious half a brain, but he’s not quite got the self-control of an older dog yet.

So anyway, new dogs are always fascinated by the cats. Mr. Fluffybutt is no exception. He is not out to hurt cats, but he really, really wants to interact with cats and possibly play with them. The cats, on the other hand, are not accustomed to the laser-focused stare of a drivey dog. Well, none of us really are, because generally speaking I prefer softer dogs and so that is what I have: dogs who can be roused to intensity by favorite treats or toys but who generally speaking are pretty happy to lounge on the couch with a chewie. But I digress. Musket is a very intense dog, who very intensely wants to interact with fascinating cat beasts, and the fascinating cat beasts would very much like him to not interact with him.

Initially, Musket thought it would be fun to play chasey games with cats. This worked really well with Aida, who took one look at him and said “Oh hell no!” and bolted for the cat rooms. Then he tried to play it with Braxton Bragg. For comparison: Aida weighs about seven pounds. Braxton is roughly three times her size. Neither one of them suffer fools or puppies gladly, but while Aida’s tactic is to remove herself to a secure area, Braxton’s modus operandi is to catch the offender across the face with two or three lightning-fast right hooks. With claws. And he holds a grudge.

Having thus been discouraged from playing chasey games with Braxton Bragg, Musket next optimistically decided he’d try with Emmaline. Emms looks like a much safer bet, she weighs about eight pounds and does not swagger like young Master Bragg. Unfortunately for Musket’s deliriously joyful plans for playing with her, she grew up in the woods and believes very deeply in her right to self-defense and also has all her claws. Since Musket isn’t aggressive, just playful, he came off the worse for wear in that encounter, too.

So by the time he got around to contemplating playing with Roo, who has no teeth and no claws, he was deeply respectful of the personal space of cats. Once he attempted to suck on Roo’s head and was reprimanded by the people, and now he leaves cats alone except to stand at a respectful distance and sometimes cry from frustration because he wants to play with cats SO MUCH and cats do not love him back and want to play with him. In fact he has been cornered by cats on a couple of occasions. He has such a good heart that retaliation has never crossed his mind, instead he waits for people to move the cats out of his way so he can get by without losing an eye.

Musket’s also a very honest dog. He will not lie to you, he will not dissemble, he lets you know who he is and what he needs to make his little world right. He’s frankly a joy, and that’s why I’ve loved him from afar for a while now. Unfortunately he’s also a dog who needs tow ork to be happy, and the Manor is not a good Working Dog home for the long haul. But so far Mr. Fluffybutt is enjoying his vacation, as you can see from the light in his eyes.

Blackthorn's Musket, a sable German Shedder with a wolfy, fluffy face and relatively small ears (compared to Zille) in three-quarters profile to the camera.  His ears are up, his eyes are alight, and his tongue is out.

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New residents, and an honored guest.

Another trip down to Blackthorn Kennel yesterday for Christine’s excellent company and our final two chickens! Very exciting. We also on the spur of the moment agreed to bring Musket home with us for a week. Musket is Zille’s younger half-brother, a fine hairy sable beastie who was in need of a vacation at the Manor to give his ginormous brain something to do. In fact, Daniel summed up the worky dog thing pretty well when he said “You know that light Zille gets in her eyes when she sees a ball? He has that all the time.” We’ve had one incident of minor bloodshed when Musket thought he might play a chasey game with Braxton Bragg, who beat him upside the head repeatedly. Everyone survived unscathed, the blood shed belongs to the dog who pretended not to notice but now runs the other way when he sees Brax.

The chickens are about six weeks old, so not laying age for another 3 months or so. One is a Welsummer, a Dutch breed, and she has been christened Bebelina. Welsummers lay fat dark-brown eggs. The other is an Ameraucana, a hybrid of some breed crossed with the Araucana, which is a rumpless chicken that lays greeny-blue eggs and is indigenous to Chile. She has been dubbed Ayinnanku, which is a Mapuche name meaning “favorite eagle.” The Mapuche are the indigenous people of Chile who were conquered and displaced by the Spanish, who called them the Araucana, from whence the breed of chicken gets its name. Look at that, history and poultry all in one tidy bundle! But yes, I did name my chicken “favorite eagle.” I am, after all, the same woman who named her Doberman “Tinkerbelle.”

Pictures of all this excitement will no doubt follow when it’s light outside, but for now you will have to imagine the fine hairy sable dog and the charming chickens. Bebelina is brown with yellowy neck feathers, Ayinnanku is mostly black with coppery neck feathers and spiffy ear tufts. Fingers crossed that Lorena and Matilda are gracious about sharing their digs. There still might be bantams in spring, but this is it for full-size hens.

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Kitten update: Badger!

At the bottom of the frame, a long-haired tabby cat with white socks is curled up against a bag. At the top of the frame, a short-haired grey tabby cat is sprawled, his head touching the other cat's butt.

Behold the Badgerman, next to his big brother Qiao! Badger’s person reports that he loves his big brother and follows him around imitating him just like a pesty younger brother should. Badger also likes to sleep on his person’s face, or if he can’t, as close to his person’s face as he can possibly get. He used to do that with me, too, so I have nothing but sympathy for waking up with a mouth full of Badger. Badger’s other older brother, Puff, who is apparently deeply odd, doesn’t mind having him around, either. And dang, Badger is big.