Sunday, April 27, 2014

Shedding Time

Ask people to give words for spring, and you'll likely hear:
Warm breezes
Green Grass
Bird Song

You seldom hear:

But yesterday, on that perfect warm, sunny spring day, I focused on the spring shed.

Starting with the Haflingers, I curried clumps of hair from face, legs, body, rump. I spent extra time on Lily's neck, underneath her thick mane. The winter hair there was long gone, but she enjoys a good rub and thanks me with an outstretched neck and quivering lip.

Next, I worked on the three Border collies. And, after removing mats, untangling hair, pulling out winter hair, I was thankful the fourth Border collie has a short, smooth coat.

But I was most thankful for the sheep, who take care of their own hair removal -- with the help of a fence.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Will there be chicks?

In a few weeks, I'll know if it's the Year of the Hot Chicks or the Year of the Rotten Eggs.

My first attempt at incubation was a red hot fail. Hatching eggs requires a steady temperature of 100 degrees.

To keep Dewey Kitty from shredding the incubator, I put the incubator in the husband's unheated workshop, which was fine until the weather warmed and the incubator temperature soared to 108 degrees.

So I tried again, this time in the house. To keep Dewey Kitty from shredding the incubator, I put it in Caeli's crate. The Border collie is counting down to hatch day so that she can move from her temporary little crate to her big wire one.

Meanwhile, the hens have gone broody.

One hen did it the right way, building a nest, laying eggs and snuggling in.

Unfortunately, she got up to eat at the same time the spouse was collecting eggs.

When, a half hour later, during dinner, he mentioned how many eggs he collected, I dropped my fork, grabbed the eggs that were still sitting on the counter, and sprinted toward the hen house where I deposited all the eggs back into her nest. Did they cool too much? I don't know.

Meanwhile, everyone wants to be a mom in this nesting box. I have no idea how many eggs they're sitting on -- or if any hen is assuming the duties of turning the eggs.

When this happened a few years ago, three hens hatched out three chicks... and then no one wanted to be the mom. Finally, an old hen stepped up.

What'll happen this year? In a few weeks, we'll know.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Old Dog, Old Trick

"Bully stick night," I called.

The four Border collies ran and sat in front of me as I unwrapped the bully sticks.

I gave the first one to Mickey, the 12-year-old Border collie. Next came Caeli, the alpha; then Tag who was doing a wiggle-sit-whine move; then Raven, the youngest who took hers with with a soft mouth; then Mickey.

"Didn't I already give you one?" I asked Mickey, who sat, ears perked, in front of me.

Maybe someone stole hers.

Giving her another, I watched as she trotted to her crate.

I followed.

Paying me no attention, she sat her new bully stick next to her other bully stick.

Shaking my head, I just closed the crate door.

Monday, April 14, 2014

While the Cat is Choking...

When I return to the kitchen after giving Mickey her medication, I find two dog joint tablets instead of three.

Louie the Cat is gagging, pawing at his mouth.

And I think:

Really, you'd eat the eat the beef-flavored joint tablet?

But you're the finicky one, the one who doesn't steal food, doesn't beg.

You're the perfect one, the one the spouse likes.

Meanwhile, Louie continues to gag and paw at his mouth.

How do you give a cat the Heimlich maneuver?

I pick him up and grab his jaw. Moments before I put my finger in his mouth, the pill pops out.

He shakes his head, irritated at me.

"You're welcome," I say as he saunters away.

Tag, the Border collie, wags his tail, anxiously awaiting his soggy joint tablet.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lamb Training Begins

"Here, here," Trick the Cat calls. The ewes are eating hay and paying little attention to their lambs.

A few lambs leave the feeder and move toward the cat. Soon others follow.

And so, the lamb training begins.

Each spring, Trick the Cat teaches the Follow the Leader game to the lambs. According to his rules, he is always the leader.

But this year, one of the lambs, Edith, the first born to the flock, the only born to her mother, has different plans. She wants to be the leader.

Only time will tell if they will work it out.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

He's Back!

I opened the window last night. Just a few inches.

After a long winter, the room felt stuffy, and I longed for smelling the cool night air and hearing the night sounds.

He started singing in the middle of the night. A long tweet, followed by short chit-chit-chit, then a whirling tune, and ending with a caw-caw-caw. Then he repeated it over and over and over again.

I closed the window and shut out the sound of the mockingbird.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Happy, Free-Ranging Chickens

As the weather warms, the grass greens, and the earthworms surface, the chickens return to their true love: hunting, scratching and pecking for food.

If given the choice of eating grain from the feeder or searching for bits of grain on the ground, they choose the search.

They're eating a lot less grain now that spring is here. And I'm finding them in the paddocks, pastures and even the garden.

Yesterday, they discovered that the raised bed is a perfect spot for dirt baths.

They'll get kicked out of the garden soon.