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

Posessed

Sleeping dogs. What could be more wholesome?

Or adorable?

OR POSSESSED BY THE DEVIL AND COME TO TAKE YOUR SOOOOOOOUUUUUULLLLL?

Just kidding. I don’t believe in that stuff. But it is kind of creepy when they sleep with their eyes open or rolled back in their heads.

Of course, it could just be because they’re a big ol’ pile of adorable derpfaces.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Workin’ at it

Had a bit of a chat with some of the fam about this upcoming next stage of my life, to make sure everyone knows what’s going on.  It isn’t the greatest news, but we’ll all get through it.

I spent a little time today learning about “passive yawning”, which is a technique used to smell – if you’re no longer breathing through your nose, guess what? No smelling for you! Now, I can certainly see instances where this is handy: cleaning the chicken coop, or not being able to smell the fart bombs my dogs generate. But, my sense of smell  is exceptional, and that will definitely be something I will miss. It looks like this technique will allow for some intentional olfactory response. Too bad there’s no real solution for subconscious continual response as there is for regular breathing. Bummer.

In other news, one  of the chickens managed to get herself out of the fenced pasture. I got her back in, then started looking around for an egg, because I didn’t know how long she had been out. It wasn’t terribly difficult to find that it had been long enough for her to miss her date with the nesting boxes in the coop.

Prior to that eggscapade, I had worked the bees, as it was a gorgeous day: warm enough for the bees to be flying, but not so warm that you’d melt inside your bee suit. I wound up splitting #10 (to #15), and #6, in a double split, to #1 and #20. Very nice.

Then, as evening closed in, I grabbed the pizza dough I’d made and rolled into balls yesterday out of the fridge and started stretching them. After that, it was into the oven for them for a parbake. From there, they are heading for  freezing until the fam and friend group has set a date to come over and have a pizza assembly party. For that party, we have a group of people handling various pieces of the construction: sauce, veggies, meats, cheese, etc. Once made, we will then vacuum pack those, et voila! Pizzas that can be pulled out of the freezer and go   right into the oven to bake for an easy, fast dinner.

And then: work work work. I’d created a todo list of some major items to get out of the way so I could write without having my brain yammer at me. That list is now the list I need to get done (or as much done as possible in some cases) before whenever the surgery date is. Before I go under the scalpel again, I have to get bloodwork done, have a couple of CTs, meet with the plastic surgeon so he can decide where to harvest the flap of skin that will be used for the primary surgery site, and so on. It’s going to be another medical adventure for me!

That’s it for today, which has turned into tomorrow as I put this together. As always, until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

Learning by doing

For some of the things you do in life, it’s far easier to learn by doing than it is to learn by theory  by reading blog posts or by watching videos. This is not to say these things are not helpful, because they are, but sometimes you don’t get the little nuances unless you’ve done the Thing, whatever the Thing may be.

I think this is true of processing meat bird chickens. Raising them is quite easy, and that part can be learned by watching videos or reading instructables (note: I’ve no idea if there are instructables for raising meat bird chickens, but there are for just about everything else).

But videos of the processing  of chickens doesn’t always includes all the steps. Some people don’t put in the dispatching of the chickens, or the evisceration. I’m not sure why that is, really: people should know how their food gets to their table, and while people like me, who process far smaller numbers than the big ag providers, have a slightly different process,  our methods are – or should be – as humane as we can make them.

I took video last year as I was processing the meat birds I had raised. I did two batches: one in October and one in December. The first batch I did just to prove to myself that I could do it to feed my family. The second batch I did to feed my family and also see if I could trim some time off the processing of each bird, as I was going through the entire process by myself: none of the family wanted to be involved in it, although my mom did take the chickens out of their ice water bath I had plopped them in as I finished each one, weighed them, and got it into the fridge, ready to be broken down.

It took me about 19 minutes to go through the entire sequence of steps , from catching the live bird, to the processed bird resting in cold water.

All of this is just a big ol’ roundabout way to say I documented the chicken butchering process on video, and you can watch it if you want to. I put it after the fold, as I don’t want people showing up and then possibly being grossed out.

Continue reading Learning by doing

Hawking

We have known for awhile now that we have hawks in our area. “Our area” meant somewhere out here in the boonies, and we would occasionally see one flying around, or hear one flying around, as they are quite the chatty cathy birds.

Now, we can say we have hawks, plural, and they must be nesting somewhere very close to us, as we have a visit from one almost every day (and several days ago, I saw two). It/They like to hang around in the trees back by the beeyard. Sometimes, though, they come to the fence by the driveway and hang out for a bit.

I had seen some squirrels running about in the front this morning, and maybe that appealed to this hawk: the opportunity for an easy meal.

Or maybe they were taking a break. Either way, it stayed for quite some time, looking quite stern.

At one point, it hopped off the fence and into the grass.

It examined a clump of weeds I’d pulled out from the berry line along the fence on which it had been sitting. Disappointed that it was just dirt and plant matter, it jumped up back to the fence. A few minutes later, it took off, to go through whatever agenda it had for the day. I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing the wildlife that has come to the property I have worked so hard to rehab over these years.

After those fifteen minutes with the hawk, the day went right to shit. I didn’t do anything on the list for today, as work beckoned. I got through it, but much of the day was over by then. I did, however, get a few things done: mowed the chicken yard and got their food and water done. Got their tote with sand and DE in it back in the coop so they can do their dust baths. Collected the eggs – we’re consistently getting at least half a dozen a day, and usually seven or eight. We are awash in eggs, and we even gave my accountant a dozen eggs when she came out to do her magic with Quickbooks so we can get my taxes in by March 15 (the filing deadline for biz people like me).

Previously when I’ve planted seed directly, I’ve waited until the entire row in clear of weeds. But last week, i took a chance, and planted green bean seed in the first area I cleared in the back garden. I took a look today, and half a dozen are up. Not bad, and I hope they make it through the weirdness that will be our weather over the next few days.

We’ve been having the best “winter” so far, with only two days below freezing here at the ranch. Tomorrow night through Thursday night, it’s supposed to be in the 30sF, near freezing. I hope it doesn’t, as I’d ate to lose the germination of the first directly sown seeds, but the upside of that is that the seed I’ve put in is cheap and can easily be resown. That “seed is cheap” think is also why I wind up buying a zillion varieties of tomatoes and corn and peppers and such. I refrained from that this year, I’m happy to report, and once I had put in my modest orders to the places from which I get my seed, I trashed all the seed catalogs, so as not to have the temptation in my face.

I still have the beeyard tale to tell, but this is getting long, so I’ll save it for another time. Until that time: be well, peeps.

 

 

 

 

Spring cleaning

It is not yet spring here, if you go strictly by the calendar. If you go by the weather, however, Mother Nature is telling a far different tale.

This is not to say she won’t change her mind about bypassing winter entirely here. It’s possible she will bring some random freeze and drop it on our doorstep with the same pride a cat has when it brings a dead critter home. Our forecast for the next ten days, in fact, has a random evening with a forecast overnight temperature of 34F. This is mildly concerning to me, as I have directly sowed some things, and if they have germinated and are up, it is possible they could get zapped by a sustained freeze (or even frost, in at least one case).

I’m not going to worry about that, though – I can sow those same seeds again, as they are plentiful and cheap. I sowed them early because that allows me to get them out of the way of when transplant time comes. That’s a very busy time for me, both in the gardens and in the bees. Anything I can knock out of having to do then is a plus.

Right now that means weeding and cleaning out hives that are not in active use. I lost some colonies in 2018, and also have other gear that needs to be cleaned, so I got to it.

Hives to be tidied
Cleanup time!

 

One of the things that happens as you are recovering from a couple of years of constant pneumonia and being in and out of the hospital, and then a year of recovery from that,v is that some things miss the boat as far as getting done. This didn’t rank high on the list, and what happens is that wax moths will move in and start using brood comb for their grossness. I got a late start (in the afternoon, as the rain that was forecast never quite made it) and managed to get three stack done.

As part of that doneness, I picked out some of the larvae so the girls (and Sir) could have some nice extra (live!) protein in their diet.

They loved these. I’m sure I’ll have more for them as I move through the rest of the hives to clean them. The best thing is that when I give them food – this or other food – they transform it into eggs for my family.

The hive cleanup is one of the items on the bees section of attractions on Todo Lake, and while I did not get through all of them today, I got a start, and that is what matters. It isn’t always the doing that is the difficult part. The difficulty is in the starting. Then it’s just a matter of allowing momentum to take over to power through, as many of the things on my list are not things that can be done in one sitting.

Once I get the hives cleaned and the frames and foundation dealt with, I’ll need to repaint a few of these hive bodies. And then, these condos will be ready to be put back into service by some of the new bees I’m getting and from the splits I’m going to have to make from the existing hives, as they continue their population levels. Except for a few packages, the rest are varieties I’ve never had before: Russians, Buckfast, and Carniolan. It is going to be fun learning the traits of these newbees in my beeyard.

The other day, I pulled some weeds in the rear gardens as I continue the race against “No Winter”and schedule my transplants.

One row was infested with lesser swine cress. Nice rosette pattern. Deep taproot, though, so it’s a hard one to get out completely, and if you want it done well, you cannot half-ass it.

Even the baby ones have long roots.

 

Tomorrow – as long as the rain holds off, or at least whatever time I have before it arrives for a visit, I’ll be continuing my bee gear clean up adventure.

That’s it for today, peeps. Until next time:  be well.

Gearing up

Aaaaaannnnnnd we are back. Again.

When I finally got over having pneumonia all the time, I thought, great, now I’ll be able to get stuff done and also start writing. But it didn’t quite turn out that way, thanks to a number of things, one of which is the constant shuffling at the NOC. They’d like it very much if we moved over to Jax2, which is the shiny new area they’ve built out. I’m trying to stop saying “the only problem with that is…” because it sounds rather like I’m valuing problems more than solutions. So, the solution to that would be to physically move all the servers and assorted gear from Jax1 to Jax2. Our racks, the ones we own, cannot go there – we’d be using their racks (for free) and we’d still have a cage to ourselves, just as we do now. We’d remove our racks from the NOC entirely – they would join the ones already in my shed here at the ranch, and would be destined for craigslist, I imagine. The logistics need to be worked out on that.

Circling back to the main point: there are going to be some changes around here. I spent much of 2018 dealing with about a billion things that slipped into Todo Lake while I was busy being sick. That impacted other things, like the bees and the gardens: neither thrived. I also got virtually no writing done.

After this all bled into 2019, I made a decision: either I was going to write – which I’ve wanted to do since I was quite young – or I was not. And if I was not, I was going to stop talking about it and thinking about it, and just go on with the rest of my life. It is not an easy conversation to have with yourself, believe me. But I decided that yes, writing was something I really, really wanted to do: both prose and poetry, the latter of which sustained me through high school boredom.

How do we prioritize writing over everything else I have going on (except the business; that of course has to stay, as it’s what pays the bills)?

By brain dumping absolutely everything that needs to be done in all the non-writing areas of my life, no matter how large or small they are, no matter how much or little time each task will take. And then, going over the lists and knocking out items from Todo Lake. What do those dumps look like? Like this:

This is two pages, just for the biz, of two columns each. I have lists for other areas: bees, chickens, gardens, home. The idea is to run through the lists and start knocking things out: if I run across something that will take five or ten minutes, and I’m in a position to do that something, the goal is to go ahead and do it at the moment, instead of saying “I’ll do it at x time” or allowing that five or so second of decision making pass and allow the chore, whatever it is, to be punted along down the road.

Obviously, not everything will take just a few minutes to do. But if there is something I estimate will take 15 minutes or more, or is a multi-day item (rolling out some administrative scripts to all servers, for instance, would probably be a multi day activity), doing X numbers of servers each day until they are all completed.

I’ve given myself the month of February to cross off as much of this as I can. On March 1, the writing takes priority, regardless of how many items are still floating in Todo Lake. Those will then get done by and by.

There are some things, though, I’ve decided to start early.  One is that I deactivated my primary facebook account over two years ago, and have just a personal facebook profile that now manages my author facebook page (since publishers want you to have a “platform”, ugh) and the biz page. I’ve also kicked myself off my personal twitter account this week: no going on twitter for any reason, including to look at links other people send me.

Two is to post on this here blog every day. I’ve had streaks before, but this particular exercise is to do it regardless of how I feel, what else is going on, if I “don’t have time” (there is usually some kind of block of a few minutes or longer to put something up), or if I don’t have anything in particular to say. Even if I just type in the date and the time, that will be enough. The goal: to simply make sure I can commit to it. After all, writing novels takes that kind of commitment.

Three: read 100 pages of a book every day. Any book, any subject. The goal: to keep up my reading habits. Not terribly difficult, since i love to read. The danger of this is settling in to read and then not stopping to do the other things I want to get done.

Four: meditate for ten minutes a day. The goal: mindfulness and stress relief. The secondary goal for this is to bump that to twice a day. I plan to start small, for five minutes a day to begin, because I know it will take practice to get my brain to stop yammering away when it should be still.

I hope all of you are pursuing whatever it is you want badly to do. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Feeding

Generally, the meaties are well-behaved as they run to the feeder each morning.

From time to time, there will be a little squawking at one another if they can’t quite figure out there’s an entire area available and choose to try to muscle in on an existing arc of the circle there.

Sometimes, their laziness is so pronounced, they may choose to sit and just eat what the others are knocking out of the trough, like the meatie at seven o’clock here:

In the end, though, they all get to eat, and boy, do they eat.

The layers seem to be settling into a routine of an afternoon nap. For three days straight when I’ve headed out in the afternoon to check them, they’re all under the front of the coop near the ramp.

I can’t fault them for that – i deem naps a Very Good Thing.

At some point this coming week, I will get some hay into the nesting boxes at the back of the coop so they can start getting used to being in them. I’d prefer not to have to chase eggs everywhere when they begin to lay.

For both sets of birds, starting tomorrow, they will diverge from their feed type. The meaties will get a feed specifically for meat birds, and the layers one specifically for them, although I expect, now that they are out and foraging that they will eat less feed.

Another no-rain day here at the ranch. I guess Mother Nature is giving it some time to try to shrink some of the puddles that are still around so she can refill them.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Pasture day!

The meaties went out on pasture after their second week in the brooder, for a couple of reasons. First, they are eating machines, and often crowded out the layers for awhile at each refresh time. Second, by that time, they were already twice the size of the layers, who are not bred to pack on so  much weight in a short period of time. Third (and these items are in no particular order), to be frank about it, their poop really, really stinks. I suppose this is a byproduct of an animal specifically bred to gorge itself. But they are gaining size nicely, and will be ready for processing the first week of October, if we stay on track.

In any case, I moved the layers out to the chickshaw last week, and kept them locked up in the coop for a few days so they would understand this was now their home. Monday, I set up the poultry fence – kind of misnamed, really, as it’s designed to keep predators out, not chickens in, given that they can fly and sometimes even remember this fact – closing in their chickshaw and an area around it, and let them out on the grass.

One of the black ones that has been my pal since they were in the brooder was, of course, the first one to take those first steps down the ramp and into the great outdoors. Once they all got out, they acted just like chickens do: they roamed around  (not far from the chickshaw, though) ate some grass and whatever else was there, tried to do a little dirt bathing without a lot of success.

We’ve simply had too much rain for that, so I’m going to get them a tub for inside the chickshaw, with sand (and DE mixed in) so they’ll have somewhere for a dirt bath.

I popped out there about half a dozen times today, to make sure they were all still alive and inside the fenced off area. At one point today, I let the dogs come out, too. While Mickey, my big, goofy border collie didn’t really care all that much about them, Einstein, my other dog, did. He’s a terrier mix, and assumed the hunter pose, one leg raised, body taut, when he realized those things smaller than him were something he wanted. Although I warned him away, he stuck his nose on the energized fence and got a quick lesson that these birds were not for him.

In a few months, these girls should start laying. For now, they need to get used to being out in the day and in the coop at night, safe from the critters that roam in the darkness.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Calling the season

It’s official: I’m calling it a season in the gardens.

For the fourth year in a row.

This does not make me happy. On the other hand, in previous years I was going through yet another bout of pneumonia. This year, it was just a sinus infection – but recovering from it took a month and a half. That month and a half is arguably the most important time for the gardens, as it took over May-June. If you get behind right there at the beginning of the real season, it’s likely you will never catch up, and indeed I did not. The plants I’d managed to transplant suffered, the plants I had yet to set out remained in their flats far too long, and the weeds absolutely strangled everything.

So as I looked at the gardens as I mowed today, despite that little voice telling me that yes, I could in fact get that next round of tomatoes planted and have them bear fruit as the calendar season closed out, I realized it simply was not going to happen.

Instead, what I’m going to do is just put the rest of the plants out of their misery and pull them for the compost heap (which, I might add, has a very thick layer of pine shavings and chicken poop on it now). And then: pull the weeds. Go to battle once more with the wisteria, which is well on its way to taking over the entirety of the east to northeastern corner of the front gardens. Take the metal sides off the rows and just have them as regular raised beds. Scoop all the rubber mulch out of the walkways in the gardens (and figure out what the hell to do with it all afterward). Lay down the commercial weedbarrier in the walkways, the same weedbarrier that covers the frames as they are right now, which is effective, although inevitably there will be weeds wherever there are holes in it, like where holes have been cut to do plantings or where the landscape staples puncture it. Get the cover crop seed in place so it can establish before we go into “winter” (I have half a row already germinated and really thick; the buckwheat came up first and has delightful little flowers on its tops.) Check all the grow light fixtures and toss the dead ones, order new ones.

There is more, of course. There is always more. There are still chickens to take care of (and one set to butcher around the first week of October) and bees to maintain. But when the list looks a bit overwhelming, I just take a deep breath and think: one step, then another. It can be done.

Until next time, peeps: be well.