Category Archives: Cats, dogs, chickens, and other critters

Peepers

True story about the arrival of the chicks (ten layer chickens, plus an additional free layer thanks to the hatchery, and ten for meat, if you have forgotten or are new – and if you’re new, hi!).

It’s kind of the same story about the bees and UPS, really, except the USPS tracking updates really, really suck sometimes.

I ordered the birds on the 30th. They hatched that very day, and McMurray Hatchery (see them for all your baby chicken needs!) packed the chicks and sent them out via the USPS priority mail. They kindly sent a tracking number, and on the 31st, the tracking indicated the package of peepers was at St Paul (McMurray is in Iowa), and “pending acceptance”. I have no idea what the hell that means, USPS. So, I checked throughout the day on the 31st, waiting for some kind of change to the status – like they’d been sent on to the next fulfillment center, for instance. Nope, nothing beyond the package being in St Paul.

Now, chicks can survive for several days, as they absorb the yolk from the egg and that sustains them. But if they get lost in the byzantine maze of the USPS centers, they’ll probably die.

On the 1st, I got up, did the usual morning things, and at about 9 AM I checked the tracking again. The status said: out for delivery, with a time on that status of 8:34 AM.

Believe me, gentle reader, when I say such statuses are complete and utter bullshit.

If  you are getting livestock through the mail or via UPS, it’s highly likely that you will have to go to your local post office or the UPS facility to pick them up. It’s been true for the bees I’ve ordered over the years, and I was certain it would be true this time as well. I told several people I thought it was a lie.

At about 10:30 AM, we got a call from our tiny, rural post office, saying they had our chicks and please come get them. I hate to be the one who says “I told you so” but….

I made my way to the PO – which, by the way, closes for lunch for an hour at 11:30 AM most days – and got stuck at a train crossing as a freight train rumbled and clanked its way to wherever it was going. By the time I reached that point, it was a bit after 11 AM. As much as I love trains (I do love almost everything transportation-wise except cars) I was hoping it would get itself finished so I could get across the tracks to the main road to the PO – which is the second right after the tracks.

They got themselves moved along and I made it to the PO with time to spare. I checked in the box to make everyone was alive (they were), then secured them and headed back to the ranch. My sister and her kids had arrived at the ranch to do a little work before I made it back, so while it was not a surprise I was bringing back chicks, it was a surprise for my niece, who was not even born the last time we had chickens at the ranch. And this is how she reacted.

I don’t think there’s much in this world cuter than a kid meeting baby animals for the first time.

Also, for the record, the chick she put back in the box was just fine. It went into the brooder with the rest and they are all doing well.

Off my feed

Ever wonder where that phrase came from?

Anyone raised on, near, or around a farm would know immediately.

I was up until after 5:30 this morning transferring mail from one server to another. While one rather large batch was transferring, I took the opportunity to grab a quick nap. I got back up, set off another item, went back to bed for about 40 minutes, then got back up again, unpacked something, updated a ticket, and hauled myself out for some physical therapy related to laryngospasms, which are unpleasant and make you feel like you’re going to die because you can’t breathe. I then waited at the rehab place for 45 minutes before actually getting into it. If I had not been short on both sleep and food, I probably would have been more charitable in my mind about waiting – again – for some medical-related bullshit. To make things even more exciting, I have an appointment with an ortho tomorrow, then on the 3rd, 7th, and 9th, with different doctors, with a followup at the rehab place on the 14th. Thrilling. Also, fuck cancer. If you’re offended by the f word….this probably is not the place for you.

The chicks have shipped, according to an email from the hatchery. I’m hoping they arrive tomorrow, but they can survive up to three days in transit – shorter times are better, of course, but such is the wonder of being able to order just about anything through the mail.

I had planned on mowing late this afternoon, but it has been so humid here today that nothing dried out. Such if the wonder of Florida.

The even weirder than normal sleep thing and food thing have me off my feed in the “I feel odd” way. I’m hoping that will pass if this little tech world of mine cools it a bit. I’m hoping that getting this done and getting some writing done will help, too. Killing off someone – literarily speaking, of course – does wonders for one’s mood.

I was looking to the skies the other night – the moon and Mars are very close to one another in the early evening sky, and got this shot of the moon.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Don’t count your eggs

Before they’ve been popped out by a hen.

No, that isn’t the way that saying goes.

Chick prep day whatever: today I braved Tractor Supply to lay in some stores for the chicks, due to arrive (probably) Tuesday. I’m sure the USPS will be much happier with a box of peeping chicks than packages of humming bees.

Anyhow, the local place was hopping today: I counted over a dozen other people there, including the stereotypical grizzled old cowboy, boots, hat, and a belt buckle that was rather impressive. He had a head full of white that nicely set off his deep tan – what could be seen of it, since he was also decked out in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. People may wonder about working outdoors, in Florida, in summer, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, but if you’re doing certain types of work (especially during mosquito season) it’s better to have more cover than less. He was not, alas, there to buy a new hay corral or have Big Jim (in my mind, there is always a “Big Jim” at a feed store or Tractor Supply) load up some heavy ass posts and giant rolls of cattle fencing because he was finally closing in that big piece of pasture, you know the one, on down past that new pond, right?

Nope.

Just a single item, maybe two, that I couldn’t even see from where I was in the line with my 50 pound bag of chick starter feed, some chick grit, and a new trough at the other register they finally opened to relieve Elaine (that was her name, actually), who originally had us about ten deep waiting to check out.

I also had to hit up Target today, looking for a couple of adapters. It wasn’t a horrible experience, completely, but that is one soulless, non-interactive place to be. I imagine it’s only a half step up from Wal-Mart, which I have not visited in well over 15 years at this point, thankfully. Not a single person talked to me – which is fine, I don’t exactly crave human contact – and as I went toward the checkout, the air smelled curdled somehow, as if someone had dropped a jug of milk that splattered everywhere but didn’t it get cleaned up all the way. Five days ago. Or it could have been the guy in line in front of me. Either way.

To top off my day, I had to go to Best Buy, which is now a riot of sound and gigantic active tv screens. They really, really, would like you to buy various appliances. At least the people are friendly enough, but the checkout takes forever because they want to see if you are in their system already. Whatever happened to the days of just buying the crap you need and getting out?

Also, I have to say that moving all the electronic detritus you’ve accumulated from one machine to another has to rank up there with the most tedious, annoying things you have to do. Even more annoying is when you realize you copied some of the outlook-related files, but not the actual PST file that you need to go on the new system. Argh.

Funny stuff from the folks who made the hanging waterers I bought (instead of making them myself because my time is money and I’ve got enough capital tied up in other things at this moment): they would like you to know they also sell nesting boxes – for the non-chicken initiated, these are where the chickens will lay their eggs, typically, although they will also lay them on the floor or, even more fun, under bushes/plants, where you won’t find them until much, much later, and one wrong move translates into a very big mistake involving the sulfuric aroma of rotten eggs. Anyhow, their illustrations just made me laugh, and perhaps you’ll get a chuckle, too.

It is true that chickens, once they start eating their own eggs, will often continue to do so unless they are physically prevented from doing it. There are solutions for that, but the best thing is to prevent them from doing it in the first place. Giving them good nesting boxes and collecting the eggs on a regular basis tends to do the trick. More importantly: no poop on the eggs! (In reality, with good nesting boxes of any sort, the eggs will generally be poop-free.)

Until next time peeps: be well.

 

Chick prep week: day one

Today was going to be the buying all the chicken tractor things and building the chicken tractor for the meat birds. Off to the big box store we go:

Said big box store did not have two of the fittings necessary to build the frame. They claimed to have one of the parts at a “nearby” store, 90 miles away. Somehow, I think their definition of “nearby” is a tad different than my own. Fortunately, you can buy pretty much anything online these days, so I ordered those fittings plus a double wye connector to make my vertical feeder. The layers will have the vertical feeder. The meat birds will get fed in a trough. The reason I came up with a vertical feeder is simple: chickens are messy eaters, and will scratch food out of their feeders to the ground – where they will rarely touch it. It’s a space- and food-saving design.

All the birds, however, will have a nipple-accessible water supply, rather than an open one. There are a handful of reasons for this, but the most important one for the waterer AND the food can be boiled down to one word: poop.

Chickens will happily sit or stand on top of their waterers or feeders and just as happily poop all over them and their contents. Two of the waterers will be hanging, without enough room for them to sit on top. The third will be set on cinder blocks to keep it off the ground, and will have a cone-shaped top to make things uncomfortable for chicken butts.

No chicken butts atop the waterer

I have some giant boxes (thanks, amazon!) to use as brooders for the chicks. While the meat birds will grow quickly enough to be kicked out into their tractor after just a couple of weeks, the layers will need a bit more time before being put out to pasture. It is necessary to clean out the brood boxes pretty frequently, unless one enjoys the smell of chicken poop (nope!).  For that, I’ll line the bottom of the box with non-skid shelf liner, and then have some puppy pads on top of that. That way, when it’s cleaning time, the puppy pads can just be rolled up and tossed.

The flaps of the boxes I’ll stand upright and duct tape together, so the sides will be high enough they can’t fly out when they realize they have winds. On the top, some 1/8th inch hardware cloth for ventilation and to keep out snakes – as the chicks will likely be out back on the patio, this is necessary to keep the snakes from eating the tasty wee chicks – and then a heat lamp for each brooder, so the chicks can warm themselves if they get chilled.

The chicks are due next week, and I still have quite a bit to do to finish prepping for them. My brother is very handy, and he’s going to be building me a mobile coop when the guy who created it releases his plans for the 2.0 version, which is lighter and better balanced than his prototype. Half the layers will go into the mobile coop, and I’ll take them around the areas of the property that still need work. They’ll scratch, peck, and (most importantly) poop in these areas, which will help the building of the soil in those places. The other half will go into the chickenyard we used for the OG chickens. All the meat birds will go into the chicken tractor to live out their short but happy lives. They’ll get fresh grass and bugs and such, but they will not be ranging – they get large very quickly and they’re unable to run into a coop if a predator circles around. They also do not scratch and peck while foraging as the layers do. But – as always, the most important thing – they will be pooping, wherever they are, and that will be good for my soil.

At the end of the gardening season, I plan to design a way to let the mobile layers into the gardens themselves, to clean up whatever is in the rows – and, of course, poop everywhere – as we head into winter. They can’t be trusted in a production garden, as they will peck at pretty much anything, including fruit still on the plants and stomp all over the plants themselves. This plan is still a work in progress.

Until next time, poops – I mean, peeps: be well.

 

Chicken prep

It’s been years since we had chickens at the ranch. When we did, we only had layers (not meat) birds. My mom was quite fond of them, and rejected my suggestion of culling the layers who had passed their prime and were not giving much production as they aged.

We lost one to a hawk or other aerial hunter – all that was left was a pile of feathers. We had one killed by a raccoon – raccoons apparently love brains, just like zombies, and one had ripped the head off one of the chickens as they stuck their head through the fence. Did I mention chickens are not terribly bright?

Of the others, one was lost to a mystery ailment, and the rest to redneck neighbor guy’s dogs. I had to dispatch the ill one and one of the chickens that had been attacked by (but not killed) by said dogs. I buried all of them on the property. Since the last one died, we’ve not had chickens back.

Moving out of the past and to the now: we are going to have chickens once again! This time, however, we are going to have meat birds in addition to layers. I ordered 10 meat birds. Because members of my family are too squeamish to  participate in the actual butchering, that part of the process will be mine, alone. However, once the birds are dispatched, plucked, eviscerated, and washed, they’re perfectly willing to bag and weigh them before the dressed birds go into the freezer. That’s good enough for me.

I was making a list of all the things that need to be done, and there certainly are a lot of things on that list. But next week is clear of any appointments for me and the dogs, so we’ll be able to get it done, no doubt. And there will be pictures!

Until next time, peeps: be well.

How to spend a holiday

Here’s the first day of my “holiday weekend”. For those of you outside the US, today is Memorial Day here. Some years ago, it would signal the official beginning of summer for us here, and we’d have a giant party and feed  a bunch of people. The kids (and some of the adults) would go swimming and everyone else would just be visiting with one another. That hasn’t happened in years now because we had a falling out with one group of relatives, and of course I’ve been sick on and off for over two years.

But here’s my day.

0730 Up, take care of the dogs, check their food and water, check the weather

0800 Breakfast and work

0915 Out to gather grass clippings from the beeyard and septic mound to add to my new compost pile

0945 Break for hydration and “work” work

1015 Out to sow the second round of green bean seed

1040 Break for hydration and work

1045 Weeding

1310 Break for lunch and work

1520 Wake up from falling asleep in my chair

1540 Feed bees and do inspections

1800 Bring in empty bottles and pulled hive bodies, put away tractor, detach wagon, close up shed, make shake with skyr added, meds

1815 Sit down at desk for feeding and work, empty camera memory card to computer

1825 Actually start feeding after playing with the dogs

1838 ACTUALLY start feeding after taking pictures and video of the dogs

1840 Realize just how much my back hurts now that I’m sitting down

1930 Back outside to bag weeds I turned up earlier today, before Alberto pays us a visit

2100 Back inside, treats for the dogs, refill their food and water

2110 Back to the beeyard to close the hive where I left the top propped open a bit, so there’s no chance of getting rain in there

2120 Make a shake, mix my meds, and taking care of business

2221 Power goes out, right when I’m making a response to a ticket, and Alberto hasn’t even arrived yet. Read on my amazon fire to wait it out

2249 Power comes back. Start the tedious task of booting up my system and then getting all my apps started once more, my screen layout in place, and get back to work

At some point doze off in my chair again

2340 Wake up, get some formula and some kefir, set up for another feed, do some more work

Doze off here and there

0130 Have an itching episode on the left side of my neck. Desperately try to scratch an itch that can’t be scratched; down a slug of benadryl before I wind up drawing blood.

0200 Bed

In other news, Alberto may be paying us a visit. Not in person, but from some of his hangers-on, the outer bands and what moisture he draws up from south of his center.

What a mess

We’re going to get some of it tomorrow, and possibly Monday, as well.

This is why I needed to take care of things I took care of today. Wandering around not doing anything in particular is a recipe for disaster here: you have to focus on what needs to be done (a TON of stuff) and how to prioritize it (take care of the bees before anything). And that’s how it went. It was a VERY productive day at the ranch. Tiring, but worth it.

I have a mound of horse poop (courtesy of a neighbor) in the southeastern area of the property that is heating and composting itself, but I wanted something nearer to the front (north) area gardens, so I started a compost pile there as well. It started off with kitchen scraps, paper, some leaves, downed branches I broke down. But now, it also has the grass clipping I mentioned up above, to get a better mix of green/brown material. This is how it looked after that work yesterday.

How the weeded row where the shelling peas and lettuces were, after getting through another weeding session – I literally worked until dark today, which was almost 9 PM.

How it looked in the dark after I had to stop because it was getting too hard to see,  so I had to head in.

Another long, busy day in the books. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

 

Posturing

Today: a respite from the rain. It wound up being hot and humid and miserable anyway, because it’s just that time of year for us.

While watching another storm blow up the other day, though, and waiting to see if I could capture some lightning on my camera (alas, no), I met this guy, looking fabulous.

Just one of the may critters that hang out at the ranch now, thanks to years of patient (and not so patient, sometimes) rehabilitation of the property.

The break in the rains allowed me to get a lot of mowing done – a good thing, as some areas were getting pretty hairy. One last section to go: in the beeyard, right up to the hive stands. I got most of yard mowed late, without having to climb into the beesuit to do it, luckily. The last bit will probably take all of ten minutes to complete, but since the vibrations from the tractor will disturb them, better to suit up and be safe.

Tomorrow is also supposed to be clear for much of the day. That will allow me to get more cuke seed in and – as ever – do more weeding. I really need to find a way to mulch or weedblock for things like carrots and lettuce to cut down even further on the overall amount of weeding that has to be done. I’m sure it will come to me when I least expect it.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

What season is it?

Pollen season, of course.

It appears we are done with “winter”, unless Mother Nature decides to give us the middle finger and gift us with a random freeze.

In the meantime, this is the time for working like an overcaffeinated squirrel on meth to get everything in shape for when we just snap right into summer. The good news is that it’s supposed to be rather balmy and springlike after the next couple of days, and that’s the best time to get some of the larger (sweaty, dirty, annoying) tasks done. Today I got the rest of the bed ready for strawberries and also reset the long side of that particular frame, as it was bowed out quite a bit. It’s amazing what you can do if you paid attention in geometry (angles!) and have some three foot rebar.

Aside: I had been posting daily. Alas, I was sick – again – and that has just started to lift a bit over the last three to four days. Whenever I’d have a scan or xray or whatever and wind up with some Thing that could be addressed with antibiotics, we’d all say, “At least it isn’t cancer!” The past three weeks, after having xrays at the ER and then again at the outpatient center, we say, “At least it isn’t pneumonia!” They both suck. I think this thing on my neck is playing a large part in all this, given that I can express the gunk out through the sublingual salivary gland, and it’s obvious that it’s infected from time to time. Next week, we’re going to a new ENT, referred by my current ENT, who is more of the usual stuff. The new guy specializes in surgical oncology for the ear, nose, throat, and I’m hoping he has some kind of answer for me related to this. It’s annoying.

Back to the gardens: about two weeks ago, I direct sowed shelling peas, carrots, and radishes. Those are up, although the peas have some duds amongst them and need to be resown here and there. In addition to fixing the strawberry frame mentioned up above, I also sowed lettuce, kale, swiss chard, beets, spinach, and pac choi.

In the barn, there are five flats under the light – all tomatoes and peppers. The tomatoes are up, and I saw the first unfolding green stem of a pepper when I needed to get rebar out of the barn. This week, I’ll get the broccoli and cauliflower into flats under the lights. They can, for the most part, take the wild fluctuating temps, and even temps that hover near freezing if Mother Nature pulls one on us.

I’ve also been fixing the fences around the gardens. Rabbits have been in the gardens, both front and back, based on the evidence.

Wabbits

While I’ve been going around, weeding, shoring up frame sides, doing other things that have been neglected the past couple of years thanks to illness, I’ve found rabbit poop here and there. I’ve also found obvious nests out in the front – among the asparagus, but also (amusingly enough) in the carrots – and in the back, in the vetch I’d thrown down as green manure. I’m not building buffets just for them, so closing holes or openings in pieces of the fence is important.

Tomorrow will be another day. Strawberry planting day, to be precise. They’ll go into their freshly turned frame and into the second frame just west of it, and by June we’ll be getting berries to go with all the other things we’ll be harvesting by then.

Time to finish a tube feed and then hit the sack. Until next time, peeps: be well.