Another chicken down, sadly: mom informs me after she’s collected eggs that one of the chickens is dead (because I am the dead chicken collector). She didn’t take a close look as she doesn’t like to look at them too closely after they’ve died and won’t watch if I have to put one down. So, my sister happens to be here, and goes to dig a hole while I go collect the girl for burial. Through my extensive and sharply honed detective skills, I find the cause of death: the chicken’s head has been ripped off. The most likely culprit? Raccoon. I picked up the poor girl, gently placed her in the hole my sister had dug, and we covered her up. I checked the perimeter of the fence on that side and found a gap in the gate that a raccoon may have been able to fit through, and a section of the wire above the fence that is not as high as the rest but also bowed outwards – something I’ll ask my bro to address when he’s up next (as well as asking him to walk the full perimeter to check for other gaps/necessary repair locations). In the meantime: RIP, other red chicken.
Short of hiring a bunch of people to come out and get the property releveled and sloped appropriately to make up for my jerk of a neighbor raising the base of his property at my expense by trucking in huge amounts of dirt (and instead of my jerk of a neighbor doing the right thing and sloping everything to the pond he has at the back of his property), for now, every time we get dumped on, we have to deal with the flooding. We also have to deal with the animals – both chickens and dogs – getting into and drinking the water. All of the animals are happy enough to get ass deep in the water and drink from the lakes that form wherever they happen to have access, neither of which is pretty. Well, I take that back: it’s pretty disgusting, especially if it’s an area that has been shat upon by said animals. But when I look at the big picture and realize I can’t really do anything about it at this point except try to keep them out of those places until things dry out, life is much less stressful.
Almost done. After starting off the day with the dispatching and burying of a chicken before morning coffee, I did some company work and watched Olympic coverage, managing to find quite a bit of fencing on, with some archery – including the men’s team event matches, way to go USA for the silver!) – and some handball and beach volleyball. I managed to find in the DVRd early morning hours the women’s 10m air rifle final, which mom judged to be quite boring. The primetime stuff on NBC tonight is tape delayed and already decided, so unless there is nothing else on, I won’t be watching much of it, as I’ve been following the #Olympics twitter feed and already know the results. I also managed to get out and refill all the gas cans around noon when all the soccer and basketball started, none of which interests me. The tricky part will be finding a time period in the coming days to do some mowing before we’re knee deep in grass again.
More jaw stretching shortly. Counting down to the point where it makes more sense to pull the rest of my teeth than to keep working on them, and there will be no dentures for me if I can’t open my mouth. I’ve given up enough foods over this crap, and I’d prefer not to have to be restricted to a completely liquid diet.
I still cannot figure out why, with London only five hours ahead of us, NBC couldn’t show the opening ceremonies live. Tape delayed wasn’t terrible, but the talking heads talked way too much, and the ad-fest was annoying. Still, there were some rather amusing moments (the Queen and James Bond), some rather geeky moments (Sir Tim Berners-Lee), and some great visuals (young athletes lighting the cauldron, which itself formed from 200 individual petals, and the shot of the Olympic rings from the ISS). So begin the Games. In this day and age, almost every sport will get television time, even if those times are rather weird and on the oddball channels. How often do we get to see archery or fencing or competitive shooting here? The fact that these will be on at all will make hunting them down worthwhile.
Ends: one of the chickens needs to be dispatched, so mom tells me. She – the chicken, not mom – is laying about under the palmetto bushes, not going for treats, and it appears she’s on her way out. The last time one got this way, it was somewhat prolonged, since we didn’t know what the hell was going on with it. Now that we’ve seen it before, we know it’s unlikely she’ll recover from whatever it is – old age, perhaps – and it’s better to take care of her now instead of allowing her to slowly starve to death, or suffocate because she gets crop-bound. Later this morning, I’ll go dig a hole, then take up the ailing girl, talk to her a bit, and make it as quick as possible. Then I’ll return her to the soil to join the girls who preceded her. It’s a bit sad, but it is truly the cycle of life on the ranch.
Another day without a workout. One good thing: a visit with the ENT today, who gave an all clear: everything looks good, feels good (no lumps or anything in my tongue, mouth, or neck that he could feel). I have two CT scans on the 2nd, and I’m hopeful those will come back clear as well. We’re still on a 6-month rotation for visits to the various doctors and for scans, and maybe next year we can get back to yearly.
Today, though, more pain from the dental work and a couple of teeth that will be the next two to be pulled. The jarring from the jumping is a killer. So, new plan: restart on Sunday to give it a couple more days to calm down.
In the meantime, we’re still watching the floodwaters recede, slowly but surely, from the two feet or so that dropped in when Debby did Jacksonville. The bees survived high and dry, thanks to good placement of the hive. The chickens…well, chickens are not that bright, so they looked like drowned rats for a few days since they were not always smart enough to get in the coop and out of the rain.
The garden: the garlic has had it. After the fast, high heat, then a lot of rain at the beginning of the month, and now this rain, a lot of it is rotted. There may be some that can be salvaged, but for the most part, I’m counting it as a loss. Next season, I won’t be planting nearly as much, and only ordered a total of 20 pounds from Big John’s. This will give us a lot more room for tomatoes, once the frames are reworked. The remaining tomatoes out front are likely dead now, and the cukes were pulled two weeks ago after the first rounds of rain killed them off.
Looking forward to a reboot of the garden!
Once upon a time we had three chicks that grew into happy, fat chickens. One flew the coop, never to be seen again. One was killed by an unknown four-legged assailant. The last one, Henrietta, chattered and ran around the yard, living her carefree life, happy enough to peck and scratch and eat treats we brought out for her. Over the past few days, we noticed a change in her: she wasn’t running for treats, and mostly she was sitting under the palmettos or under the rack in the coop, not wandering the yard. Yesterday, she was panting and not moving much at all. Mom and I were out looking at the girls (since we added more chickens to keep her company the past two years) and a storm blew up. I gathered her up from under the palmettos since she wasn’t moving to get out of the storm and took her into the coop, then out of there to the back porch into a box lined with a towel. We knew she was on the way out, so we made her comfortable and kept an eye on her. Last night, she finally stopped breathing and this morning I buried her out on the edge of the property where I’ve buried two other chickens.
So long, Henrietta. You were definitely the favored one amongst the girls.
Sometimes I wonder about these things, especially when we get an egg that is huge compared to normal eggs. The five normal eggs weigh about 2 3/8 ounces each. The whopper weighs in at 3 5/8 ounces. We’ve gotten several double yolkers since we’ve had chickens, and this one will likely be another – or perhaps a triple. That would be something to see.
Someone will have to, eventually.
The days are getting longer, the girls are a bit older, it’s warmer, and apparently they’re beginning to hit their stride. They must have heard our nefarious plan to replace them, and kicked things into motion. I suppose we’ll have to keep them, and when the new chicks start laying as well, we’ll be getting a lot of eggs in any given day. Hopefully people around here will be ready to have fresh eggs always on hand.
Oh, the quote: if you’ve never seen Cool Hand Luke, you should.
At some point last year, we decided that in addition to keeping chickens as layers, we’d get some to raise for meat. Me, I’m all for it, as I’m very comfortable knowing where my food comes from and how it manages to get from the barnyard to the store (or, in our case, the farmers from whom we purchase our meats) to my pots and pans and into my belly (not that I eat a whole lot these days).
Still, I’m perfectly fine with raising and processing and freezing our own birds, and I thought other people in the family were as well, even if they didn’t actually participate in the processing portion of it. Now, though, my mom is questioning whether she could eat an animal that we raised, so it appears we’re just down to me on the farm to human really, really local food chain.
Instead of bringing to the ranch a group of chicks to be raised for meat, I ordered eight chicks destined to live out their lives laying eggs instead. Worst case, figuring a 50% loss in shipping, we wind up with four birds. Best case, we wind up with eight, who should lay enough for us and extended family. They’re due for delivery in mid-March right around my birthday, which gives us about a month to get rid of the current girls and clean everything up for a group of peeping fuzzballs. In a strange twist, it appears that the oldest of the girls, who had not been laying at all, has started laying once more, as if she’s on to our nefarious plan to give away this group for free to anyone who wants to come get them (most likely for the stewpot, since they’re older, and erratic layers). If anyone local to the greater Jax area wants them, let me know.
No more mutt chickens, though. The group of replacements we got last year are of indeterminate heritage, and although docile, not tremendously consistent in laying – the very reason they have to be moved out for more productive birds. I ordered four each of Red Star and Delaware day old chicks, a good mix of medium to high production layers, and both breeds are friendly, docile, and easy to manage. Maybe next time around I can convince everyone that having our own meat birds is nothing to shudder about.
Tomorrow, another visit with the oncologist to see what the results of the testing say – hopefully, there will be results and this won’t be another trip into town for nothing.
Today, though: planning. Planning for next season and next year. This afternoon, I managed a tour around the rear garden to see the pitiful state of affairs. Blight has taken hold of several frames of tomatoes, and the bugs are munching on the cukes and zucchini like it’s their personal buffet (although I did manage to squash a few during my brief stay outdoors). The corn is dead, for yet another season, and I’m of half a mind to just give up on that altogether. The new round of lima and green beans are not thriving, as they say, and are either dead or dying. Some of the transplants I managed to get into the frames before going into the hospital are still alive, and even thriving, including a new round of Cherokee Purple tomatoes and some bell peppers. The watermelon and butternut squash transplants don’t look horrible, but they’re skinny things and I’m hoping they make it through.
The other part of planning involves chickens. We decided before I went in for surgery that next year we’re going to raise our own chickens for meat in addition to those we keep as layers. This is not without logistical issues, of course, and it’s likely that only my brother and myself will be able to actually butcher the birds, but that’s fine. Other family members can handle the less gruesome parts, like packaging the birds, whole or pieced out, once they’ve been dressed. That seems like a fair enough division of labor to me.
Since the birds are generally processed at about 12 weeks, and the chicks are available year round, we could do multiple groups per year if it turns out to be worthwhile. I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be, as how often do most people really get the chance to raise their food almost from start to a very definite finish? We’re not quite on the path to hatching our own chicks here, and probably never will be since that would require a rooster, and that simply isn’t happening around here. I’m content enough with ordering chicks even though it isn’t as completely self sufficient as would be the case in a utopian universe. Now, if it really comes does to the end of the world as we know it, complete with zombies, we’ll rethink that part of the equation. Until then, we plan for stocking the freezer with freshly butchered, pasture raised chicken, right off the property. There are, no doubt, worse things in life.