Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Long Red Line

Its a great time to be a cow. The grass is tall, the sky is blue the streams are crystal clear and cold.

The herd is grazing in a new field every day trying to keep up with the growing of the lush grass.

These are my favorite colors: red, white and green.

*Thanks to all who responded about the big snake who is now living in my garden with all her 12 inch babies.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Big Snake

I was unable to drive into my driveway yesterday as there was a long, good looking obstacle across the entire road.  I opened the door to get a close up and he zoomed into my garden.

So reptile lovers, tell me what kind of snake I have living in my garden. 


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Harold's New Home

I determined last week that Harold, my very handsome Blue Laced Red Wyandotte rooster was eating me out of house and home and needed to find a new farm to reside on.   He was also not adjusting to 2 of the new pullets I had obtained.   I could feed 4 more pullets on the amount of feed he was consuming and made my decision Tuesday night to put an ad on craigslist.  Wednesday at 6:53 am the emails started rolling in asking about his details.

In 2 days I received 82 emails from people who wanted him. I was astonished at the volume of email he got from one small ad.
My intention was to trade him for a pullet, but no one seems to have one to trade.

On Sunday Sarah, who sent the very first email wanting Harold, came up to get her new flock leader.

She has Golden Laced Wyandottes and is going to experiment with a cross of the two.

 I am still looking for 4 more pullets.  Still searching for a few good BLRWs.

Have you ever had a rooster you had to rehome?  What were your reasons for kicking him out of the coop?

Harold was a good rooster. He was dog, duck and people friendly. Clean and quiet. He hadn't figured out how to all.   These photos don't do his colors justice.

I hope he sends me a postcard.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Twin

I returned to the field early the next morning to see if the expected twin had been born and if it was a male or a female.

I brought my bucket of equipment and was ready to band, tag and weigh.
Unfortunately, somehow on Friday when I fell down the steep slope, I had lost my perfect Uncle Henry jacknife with 3 blades.
I have had that knife since my deployment during Hurricane Katrina and am pretty miffed that I may never find it.
I fully intended to look for the new calf and then my knife. In that order.

When I arrived to the field the herd was scattered around and chewing the lush grass.

The grass was still high.
It was going to be like an Easter egg hunt looking for a new calf.

I found Google and there was no calf nearby.  And she wasn't going to tell me where any of her calves were.
She has a long standing tradition of hiding her calves really really well.

Her first calf Gracie (the Guard Cow) was hidden in a 100 acre field for 8 days before we found her.
People, dogs and riders on horseback searched that field every day and none of us could find that calf. I thought coyotes had gotten it. But 8 days later Googie walked the calf out to the field by the road and showed us all how much smarter she was than the rest of us.

For now, Goog gave me the hairy eyeball as I approached her from the east side of the big field.

I walked a grid in the field looking for ALL the calves and doing a head count.  The grass was high and hard to walk in.   I eventually found all of the calves except for Goggies new heifer and any other calf she may have had.  I was ready to call out a search party.

If I had a good cow dog I know that I would of been able to find her calf sooner....but as you all know, Mavis is a reluctant cow dog.

She is always with me, but always outside of where the cows are.  She has an imaginary boundary and she will. not. cross. it.

 Anyhow, she had her paws full trying to keep an eye on me while I walked the field.  Mavis zooms all over the field on the other side of the fence keeping track of me.  I wear her out.

I walked the entire perimeter of the field and approached Googie from the west and that's when I saw a little white head in the grass.

Googie watched me at first and then pretended it was no big deal and went back to grazing.

As I approached the calf in the grass, I could feel my heart pounding with excitement.

It was the heifer from the evening before with a full belly.   No other new calf in the area.

I continued to look and went back to the areas I had walked and fallen 12 hours previously.

Hoping to either find a calf or my much used, and NEEDED, knife.

The grass on the left was grazed on Friday and the grass on the right was given to the herd this morning.

About 30 feet to the left is where the hill is and where I went butt over nose down it.

My knife was nowhere to be found, although I did find an extra ear tag and a pen.

 While I was looking for knife and calf, Wanda came over to see what I was doing OR to make a confession that she swallowed my knife.  I do not know which.

What I do know is that there is no twin and there is no knife.

I am actually a bit relieved that there is no second calf in Google's plans this weekend.  Twins are a lot of work and I usually have to bottle feed and creep feed them to keep them growing at the same pace as others.  Not to mention the work and stress on the mother.

Sadly, my knife is gone and won't be replaced for awhile.

So, dear friends.  Its a twinless weekend!         Time to exhale.

Duck With a Disability

My Silver Appleyard duck, Agnes, has a wing that is twisted.   Better known as Angel Wing.

There are many suggested reasons for this wing twist issue, one being duck food that is too high in protein.  I don't feed a high protein grain.

I think it was caused from an injury. Probably from falling off of the ramp to the coop every day while her feathers were developing.

It took her longer to figure out how to go in and out of the coop, even with the added ramp addition.

She has never been as coordinated as the other duck, Ruthless.  And her technique for doing anything is to rush it and not look where she is going.

Here is a photo of her with her right wing that sticks out and gets caught on everything now.
Agnes is 2nd from the left, next to the rooster.

 This morning, with help from a friend we carefully wrapped the affected area of her wing and taped it.
The procedure took a good 10 minutes with vet wrap, scissors and tape.

She had it off in 30 seconds.

We did 3 more wraps and she still had them off in lightning speed.

I do not want to use duct tape.   it will be difficult to take off in 7 days.

Duck folks, Anyone have any other suggestions?


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Double Trouble

I have been anxiously looking at the calender for the past 30 days, wondering when my gigantic, old faithful cow, Google,was going to have her twins.
I have turned down jobs, avoided family obligations and spent hours driving to the field to check on udders and vulvas.  Those of you who have livestock know the worry associated with possible train wreck complications of the birthing process.  I had estimated that the "twins" would arrive at the end of April.     Wrong.

As my old, cranky cow got even bigger I actually had several nightmares that she had triplets instead.

Finally, I made another guesstimate that Memorial Day weekend would probably be the time of the big event, since I had planned to actually take a relaxing trip away to recover from bad news, stress and more bad news.  I couldn't fathom being away from my cow if she was in trouble. So I did what every cow loving gal does:  I requested a week of vacation.  When asked "why" I needed a vacation, I wanted to say  "maternity leave."  Instead I said "Family."

On my way home from my last day of work , I slowly drove by the herd while counting heads in the tall grass on the hillside.  I saw my old cow, from a distance, munching grass. She looked fine.

I went home, changed out of my clean work clothes and put my comfortable farm clothes on and headed out to my garden determined to get some more veggie plants into the ground before dark.

Just as I bent down to put the first pepper plant in, the neighbor drove in and said he had brought some folks down to look at the cows a few minutes ago, down by the stream, and it looked like there was a new calf.

I jumped in my truck and raced down to the herd.

As I leaped out of my truck with my bucket of ear tags, bands, assorted equipment and cow snacks I was met at the fence by Gracie the Guard Cow.  That's when I knew that something was amiss.

Then I heard a cow bawling continually.

I hiked over to where I thought the new calf was, down in a valley near the stream.

I about had a mini stroke when I made it to the edge of the steep hill and saw TWO new calves.

There were THREE cows fighting amongst themselves and a lot of bawling and spinning.

I lost my balance and fell down the hill, my bucket of stuff spilling all over the hillside and beyond.

Stinging Nettles scratched my legs as I swore and cursed why I always seem to have shorts on when I fall, instead of pants.

Two of the cows were head butting and one first calf heifer and 2 calves were yelling.  It took about 5 minutes to sort out the situation and the conclusion I came to was not the same one I initially thought.

With a sigh of relief I determined that there were 2 calves and TWO Moms, not one mom like I had initially thought.   The third cow was a milk sucking thief who was working hard to steal some colostrum and doing some head butting.
My old cow was pushing the 2nd calf away and the first calf heifer was bawling constantly because she was confused and trying to get to the old cow's new calf. The old cows calf was following the first calf heifer as the old cow was trying to catch up with her.   It was chaotic, to say the least.

I got a little distance between them, put the correct calves with the correct cow and went back up the hill to collect my supplies.

Luckily I didn't have to wrestle either one of the calves to band them and make them steers.

Both were heifers.

Google's calf was an hour or so old.  She was learning to walk and listen to her mom.

I weighed her at 84 lbs.

Google still looked huge and I thought the "twin" might be on its way in a few hours.

The hill was steep and the calf wasn't walking well enough to make the trip up to the safety of the herd yet, so she laid down for a nap.

I wasn't going to leave until both cows and calves were back in the safety of the rest of the herd.

We have a large family of coyotes that would have an easy time killing these calves in this steep valley with no where for them to escape.

 While she was laying down I put her earrings on and looked her over really good.

She is a nice solid calf with a small teardrop of pigment on her right eye.
I just love eye pigment.   You probably all know that already.

Eventually, both cows urged their calves to climb up the steep hill to return to the safety of the herd just before sundown.

The first calf heifers baby made it up the hill fast once she got going.   That Instinct to get back to the herd is very strong.  Her mom got with the program once the calf situation was sorted out and the milk sucker cow was removed from the situation.  New moms need a little supervision sometimes.

The question I left the field with was:  Will there be a twin here the next morning?

And then I thought how perfect my timing was to take a vacation.  I had a feeling I was going to need it.

Stay Tuned!

Oh, and I need some "G" names for this calf.


Swamp Co-Habitation

I am fortunate to pass several large beaver-made swamps on the way to work. Twice a day I get to observe the wildlife, in all 4 seasons, that use this body of water in many different ways.

For the last several weeks, in the fog, I could barely make out a shape on top of the main beaver lodge.

When the foggy mornings ended I was delighted to see this duck family using the beaver lodge to raise their family and use it as a guard post.
(Click on the photos to see the rest of the camouflaged family in the water and in the reeds.)

In the morning the female and her ducklings were on it, and in the evening I was able to take a few photos of the drake on the lodge acting as a sentry.

I was a great distance away, but the minute I sneezed, he heard me and started alerting his family.

I wonder how the beavers feel about their quacky tenants.

What wildlife have you seen lately?

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Emerald Gardener

I learned today that a very special friend died last week and the funeral was at 1pm today.  I didn't find out the news til around 2pm.  Later information tonight said he didn't survive an operation at the local hospital.  I am stunned.  He was just here.  In this house, in this garden, in the field with my cows.  We were laughing about my garden failures last summer and the migration of snails thru my yard.

Everette was a "retired" farmer and master gardener and treated my gardening club to a grand tour last year.  It was an amazing experience. He didn't just have a "green thumb," his thumbs were emeralds.   His gardens were huge and all his adult kids had chunks of land and even more intense gardening set ups.   I learned alot from his explanations of how he starts, grows, fertilizes, saves seeds, eliminates weeds and cooks his vegetables and fruits.  Especially about the flowers and tansy he uses as natural garden pest repellents.  His fruit trees and berry bushes were healthy and full and that sight alone made me want to get some.  I later sent him a Thank you card with 3 of the last 2011 rare Dr Rowe poll beans in it.  I felt that "just incase" something happened to me last winter, then Everette was the appropriate person to trust with my last special bean seeds.  He appreciated their productivity and their rarity and he knew what to do with them to make sure they continued their legacy.
He phoned me last month and said he wanted to come visit me, meet my cows and get some more of the very rare pole beans that Dr Rowe gave me just a few weeks previously.  Everette shared with me his dedicated plans to grow the beans and send them to Seed Savers.  I was thrilled.

He brought his wife, we walked the fields, he asked lots of questions about my gentle herd.  He was impressed.  Last year he had said he was going to get a few Scottish Highland cattle to graze his field. Now he was considering Simmental.

He thanked me profusely for the seeds and tour. He also warned me NOT to plant anything until after the May full moon since there was a good chance there would be a frost.  It was hard to control myself, but I did and of course he was right.

Several days ago I heard a bunch of people at the grain store saying they were not planting anything until after June 7th, since there was again a chance of a hard frost.

I wrote a note to myself to phone Everette and ask him if he agreed with that information.

Tonight, I planted my largest heritage tomato plant, a Brandywine variety, in memory of my patient gardening friend Everette.

I will be dedicating my gardening season to this gentle man who inspired me to get tansy, snail killing ducks and heritage seeds, including unsual melons.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jersey Girls in the Field

I saw some beautiful organically raised Jersey milk cows out in their lush field a few days ago.
All the rain last week really got the grass growing!
I drove down the old road and visited with these very content girls.
Here are a few photos of this nice herd.

Healthy cows make healthy milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir and ice cream.

Support your local cows.

Have you got a favorite dairy breed?


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Horses and Wagons

Its May and farmers are spreading their manure piles on their fields.
All around my area draft horses are doing their jobs.

This team is spreading manure of the farm veggie garden.

Its a great sight, and smell, in the early morning.

Do your horses have a job?


Monday, May 21, 2012

Chicken Swap

It was a glorious day yesterday for a chicken swap in the southern part of the state.

The sun was high and hot, with a slight breeze and the smell of fresh mown grass.

I woke a friend up and dragged her with me since she has never ever been to a chicken swap and I felt it was something she had to experience!

The big event was held at an apple orchard with a nice parking lot and a small field across the road where vendors parked, set up shade and cages and sold hundreds of various birds.

We were greeted by the sounds of loud ducks and angry geese.

I made sure that I arrived an hour early so I would not miss a single thing.

My goal was to purchase a few more pullets to round out my flock.

It was easy to get swept away by all the different kinds of chicks, ducks, geese, turkeys, as well as house birds such as parakeets, canaries and finches.  Everyone's incubators have been going "full tilt" since March and the immense variety of poultry confirmed it.

I met up with a woman I had been communicating with about her several breeds of chickens.

Chris had some unusual buff chanteclers that I was interested in, but they were much smaller than my current young flock and I thought it best to not get any.  As I said " they were too big to live in my bathroom and too small to go in the coop."   Her other older birds were really nice and calm and I suspected I would return to pick a few out after I had cruised the rest of the poultry being unloaded up and down the road as the crowds started arriving.

This may have been a poultry swap, but there were rabbits, goats, guinea pigs, kittens and other small livestock available.

I was temped to get 2 weeder geese to help me in the garden, but decided I already had my hands full with the flock I already was accumulating.

 The breed that was making the biggest impact on the buyers were the Red Sex Links.
 People were buying 6 at a time.

My favorites are ducks.   I just adore them, especially the call ducks.

I was also looking for a few miniature Silver Appleyards and hoped some would be here.

I found this little pair and watched them for 15 minutes while the hen laid an egg.

Again, I came close to purchasing these 3.  Self control flowed back to my brain and I continued my window shopping experience as i walked down the long field road.

Until I came upon several hundred 4 day old chicks.....

The cage was full of Blue Laced Red Wyandottes (BLRW).  My favorite heritage breed.

I had gotten a chick in March, but it turned out to be a rooster.  I really wanted a few more, but again these were too small to be incorporated into my flock.

I took so many photos of hens and pullets that my camera batteries died.

I met my first pair of Sebastopol geese. Impressive. Enormous. Loud.

 After seeing every single animal that was brought to this chicken swap, I headed back to Chris's area and eventually picked 3 pullet to bring home.

I chose a Red Sex Link, a Speckled Sussex and a "Pullet Surprise."  The last being a questionable mix of possibly Buff Orphinton, Brahman and Easter Egger.  I liked her because she was so calm, had unusual highlights on her feathers, had a small comb and might lay some blue eggs.

Chris's birds were the absolute calmest in attendance and I really wish now I had gotten more of them.

I put them in my 4 slot transport cage and headed home. 

They didn't utter a peep the entire ride home.  They were perfect back seat passengers.

Here is a quick photo of the girls just before I brought them to the coop.

These 3 were hatched the same week as mine and were almost the exact same size. My flock immediately accepted the Speckled Sussex since I already had 2 of them and its clear to me that the flock has imprinted on that particular color pattern and did not see the new gal as being an intruder

However, the red and the gold one had a bit of a tussle for the first 15 minutes and then they got up on the perches and camped out. The red pullet followed me around and let me pick her up. She sat with me while I sorted out garden seeds.  These girls were hand raised, gentle and tame.  I regret not getting more.
The red one has the potential of being a house pet.

Last night the flock roosted together and all is cozy and good this morning.

If I can find 3 more pullets the same age as mine, then that will fill the coop and we will be able to make it thru the winter with enough "hen heat" to keep the coop comfortable. I will still search for some BLRW and a Barred Rock or even a Swedish Flower Hen.

So if you ever get a chance, go to a chicken swap!  There are several going on until July in most New England states. Check with your local Poultry Association or just Google it to find one near you.

Now, be honest and tell me how many birds you have come home with from a swap....